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Friday, September 28, 2018

Necessity... the mother of invention, they say, and so it is in this case.  I hauled out my pale fabrics, intending to make another piece in the ME series (this was the first one).  There have been subsequent books, but another textile piece seemed like A Good Idea.  I have some offcuts of Evolon, from the kits I used to offer...I used one here.  They're an odd size, a bit longer than I'd like, they feel a bit unbalanced.  Anyway... I had selected a few fabrics, meaning to piece them together.  And here's where the necessity comes in.  I would have to lift the sewing machine onto the table, and that would take all my energy, so not going to happen.  And no, I don't hand piece...besides which, I wanted to have the raw edges applique rather than piecing seemed to be the way to go.  Here's what I've ended up with, after half an hour or so playing about with it.

All of the fabrics are wrong side up; the patterns were simply too strong the 'proper' way round.  I'm still using the idea that ME leaches colour from my life, by stealing my energy. Looking at this, the whole thing needs to move a bit closer to the top edge of the evolon.  And then, I'll crop the bottom off, but given my complete inability to cut in a straight line, I'll stitch it together and trim it later with the rotary cutter.  Not sure about that small piece of rust dye at the top; it's too dark, so I'll substitute it with a paler scrap.  I'm contemplating stitching this with very fine metallic thread.  I swore blind that I would never do that again, after finishing a commissioned piece that was intensely stitched with the stuff.  Well...never is a very long time... and I think the metallic thread is what's required...dammit... sigh.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


...are up there with poppies, tulips and chincherinchees as my favourite flowers.  T'is the season for them, so there's a bunch on the coffee table in my living room.  I thought I'd take a few photos...and here they are...  call it pure eye candy.

I tried to look at them with fresh eyes, to catch pictures of areas, such as the back, that I wouldn't normally consider.  Partly, because I might well use these to paint or draw from, and partly because it's good for me to stretch myself and my thinking a little.

I was particularly intrigued by the centres, which, close up, don't read as they do from a distance.  I really must learn how to use my camera properly, instead of relying on the auto function...perhaps when brain fog isn't quite so much an issue.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Working It Out.

I've had a maze book folded for some time, waiting for me to do something with it.  You may remember, I showed you some work I'd found when unrolling what I thought was some plain paper (see it here), and said I would make books with it...well, this is the dry run for those.  I wanted to see how paper of this size folded into a maze.  So, having done most of what I wanted with the previous books, I thought I'd play with this one, rather than make something from scratch.

I had an idea.  I was going to play with the idea of 'taking a line for a walk', Paul Klee's well known description of drawing, by adhering scraps of rust dyed silk to the book, and then stitching to connect them.  The silk, however, when I positioned the first piece, had other plans...and here's the first page.

I think what interested me first, was the space surrounding the scrap (try to imagine it without the stitch).  Rather than stitch it down, though, I wanted to surround it with stitch, cage it in some way, so that it was held within that space.  This was the result...and here are the two pages that combine with it, when the book is opened, to make a spread.

Each piece has its own definitive space, a different shape, a different positioning on the paper, and it's own cage.  Here is the spread:

The spread tells a different story, somehow.  The balance is different...on reflection, that central piece might have been better, had it been smaller...but I don't want to change it.  Something to think about as I work the remaining spreads. 

Of course, each spread has its reverse :

The reverse embraces a fourth page, but the stitch is at the top of the page, and doesn't relate to anything on the other side...that's because it is folded in a similar way to the last book; if you remember, there was a section which was folded in on itself, like this :

I'm talking about the green V shape to the left of the book.  Instead of leaving that open, in this book, I've stitched the two pages that constitute the V shape to each other at the top, creating a pocket for an inclusion.  And that's as far as I've got.  I like it when the materials dictate what the piece wants to be.  It relates now to the other 'fragments' pieces I've made.  Not sure if I'll leave the stitching as it is on the reverse, or do something else with it...that remains to be seen, and probably won't be decided until the whole piece is stitched.

Friday, September 21, 2018


...maybe.  I speak of the book I started as a trial run, here.  I found enough energy to finish the reverse, so here it is in it's penultimate incarnation.

Despite what you're seeing in the images, the colour on the reverse runs the other way from the can just see that the pink on the 'back' has green on the 'front' (it's peeping through on one of the folds). I thought about adding more curved lines to the 'back', but instead, I think I'll add individual words, to make up a poem.  I may collage them on, rather than writing them...but first, I have to work out what they are... always a good thing...

You can just see the large box of pastels I was using, along with a smaller box.  I do have a lot of pastels (there are a couple more boxes in the studio); fortunately, they don't take up as much room as, say, paint.  I used several, blended together, to get the colours you see here...that's my excuse for having such a large selection.  I may not have a fabric stash any more, but I do have a lot of pastels...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Yes, I Know...

...I did wax lyrical about building time into the process...but...   I looked carefully at the book, and realised that, actually, there's a theme already there... it's about curves.  The brain is a wonderful thing; it insists on finding meaning in seemingly random marks.  It's a tendency I'm profoundly grateful for.  To my intense surprise (I'd love to say it was planned, but it so wasn't...), each of the spreads created by combining the three monoprints in book form, seems to create a new coherent whole, with a flow from one side of the page to the other.  Have a look, see what I mean.  Each of the spreads comprises one side that is the reverse of a print, and one right side of the next print (if you see what I mean), with the exception of the centre spread, where both sides are the reverse of the print.  Come to think of it, I could have turned one of the prints round, so that I got the print side showing as the spread, but actually, I think this way is best.

Spread One:

The first spread is quite intriguing (okay, I find them all intriguing, what can I say, I'm an artist, it's what we do...).  This one has two curves, which seem to echo each other, but they do meet in the middle...can you see it?  Interestingly, if you placed the original prints together, they look quite different, but combined in this way, they seem similar to some degree. 

Spread two:

To me, this reads almost like a semi-abstract snail, or a strange beast of burden...but you can see the curve running from the top of the 'head' to the base of the 'shell'. 

Spread three:

Here, you can see how different the reverse of a print really is.  This, to me, looks similar to a ghost print, the second print that you take from a monoprint.  The stitches on the left hand side have a really random feel; I like the sense of space that I get from it...this time, the strong curve shown by the dark stitches then continues on and upwards, over the egg-like shape on the second page. 

Spread four :

Here, the dark curve above what appears, on this side, to be more circular than ovular, continues on into the lighter area, sitting inside a second curved shape suggested by the print.  The straight lines of that dark curve on the left are echoed by the lighter, longer lines in that curved shape on the second page. 

Spread five :

This is the most visually incoherent of the spreads, but there is still a suggestion of a curve, in two places, though one is not as obvious in the image as it is in real life.  The first of those curves sits where the pages meet, the lines stitched into the beige coloured area on the left, meet the curves stitched into the lower brown area on the right.  More abstractly, though, the upward  movement of  that beige area continues until it meets the brown semicircular area at the centre top of the opposite page.   Interestingly, this is the only other spread in the book where the stitch appears more abstract in places.  I think that idea of stitch on one side not matching the stitch of the other side, is something I'd like to explore. 

So, there you are.  One finished book, other than the stitch to bind it.  I think its name is Curvilinear.  Interestingly, I've already made a quilt with that name, a long time ago, admittedly...the two are not particularly similar; you'll find it here, in a post entitled 'Creative Surprises'.  Not unlike this book, really.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Last Page... finally complete. 

I wanted to continue the theme of long, straight lines that I started in the 'tail' section of the larger motif, so used blanket stitch again in the circular section.  That, of course, meant that I was limited in the number of stitches I could get into the small circle at the centre, so I ended up adding a couple more straight stitches in places that seemed too wide by comparison with the others (if you see what I mean).  I don't think you can tell the difference, really. 

And then there's the vertical secondary motif.  That is made up of long, straight stitches, couched down with that same thread, as in the 'tail' section.

The reverse of this side is intriguing...for some reason, it reads in a circular format, rather than a straight line...who knows how that happened.  But for the vertical lines to make visual sense, I decided to whip them, to make coherent lines.

What next?  I hear you holler.  Well... ostensibly, I sew the pages together.  In practice, however, I'm going to leave them for a week or so, and go back to them.  I'm contemplating drawing on them, and it would be easier to do that if I leave them unbound.  I'm undecided, and the best thing to do for that, is to build some time into the process.  We get too close to the work while it's being done, and stop seeing it objectively. 

I'm still not sure if these pages make a coherent whole, but perhaps that's the point.  That's another reason to live with this a wee while, and see what emerges.   There's a lot to be said for having no deadlines or imperatives other than the lack of energy; I don't have to make immediate decisions any more.  The lack of energy has its upside, though there is only the one... I no longer procrastinate.  I can't afford to; I don't know from day to day whether I'll have any energy at all, so I tend to use it while I do.  I've always said that procrastination comes from fear; the only fear I have left is that I'll be bedridden and unable to do the work, or anything else, for that matter, so I choose to work when I'm able, and try not to waste too much time on regretting the amount of time I wasted in the past.  Sigh.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Thinking Back And Front...

...albeit coincidentally, at least at first.  Working on the last page of the book, I decided I wanted something as textured as the chenille whipped stitches, but not using chenille (mutter, mutter) chain stitch, it was.

I rather like that.  I liked the way it worked on the reverse, too.

Pure fluke, I have to say...but then I started to think about it all in earnest.  The simplest thing to do, would have been to have worked more chain stitch within the motif, but that didn't work for two reasons...firstly, I thought it was boring.  And predictable. Secondly, and more importantly, the motif stretches over two pages, and I wanted something to work across the fold, and that meant something other than just reinforcing the overall motif.  So, I worked long stitches on the 'tail' of the motif, but quickly realised two, that the need to fold the paper would mean that those long stitches were likely to gape, or at least, move around, and the second, that it would give nothing to look at on the reverse, other than a small stitch top and bottom, if that.  So, killing two birds with one stone, I couched the long stitches down, using the same thread.  And because it is a hand dyed thread, with variations in colour and tone, it reads, close up, as if it was a different thread.  That was, I got lines on both sides of the paper, clearly delineating this section of the motif.  Hurrah.

More tomorrow (I ran out of steam).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

One Of Those Moments...

...when you think, why the hell did I think this was a good idea?  It involved chenille thread, just in case you're wondering.  Chenille thread is lovely...until you try to sew with it.  I was working on a page of the ongoing book, and I had used the hand dyed dark brown thread, only to realise that it wasn't showing up well enough on the predominately dark brown background.  So...I looked for something else...and something else was a random dyed chenille, brown, grey, gold, cream number.  Reader, I got it threaded first time.  And then it went to hell in a handcart.  Still, I managed to stitch with it...and then whipped it back through the stitches...

So then, I decided to whip the chenille through the previous stitches.  After all, the thread had been quite easy to put into the needle I was using... should be simple.... Reader, I finally switched to a wool needle.  I figured that whilst the needle was considerably thicker, I wasn't actually stitching with it, other than the beginning and the end, so that would be okay.  And it was.  Eventually.  Oh, how I hate chenille thread.  Somebody remind me not to buy any more...

Do I want more stitch?  Don't think so...but if I change my mind, you can be pretty sure it won't be with chenille.  Growl.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


...more stitch on the book I'm currently working on.  Here's the progress.  I've finished the front page now...I think... I'm never entirely sure until the whole thing is done...

You're going to have to imagine it folded, admittedly...but this is both sides.  I'm intrigued by the reverse, because, of course, the stitches don't look the same on the back, as on the front, so things get a bit more abstract (or should that be random?).  So...that's the front and back of the book (as well as both sides of the paper, if you see what I mean) here's the central pages.

The central motif is stitched with a rayon hand dyed, corded thread (the rest are cotton), which proved a pain to work with, but its sheen goes nicely with the metallic paint that was used.  As this isn't a colouring book (and don't get me started on the point of colouring books, or lack of it...), I didn't feel the need to continue the stitch so that it filled the entire motif.  I decided I wanted to have large vertical stitches on the bottom dark section.  Blanket stitch, I thought.  Ha ha ha, said my memory.  I know you've done it lots of times, but I don't remember how you did it... ME affects memory, and a lot of what I used to know, doesn't come to mind easily.  In this case, I could remember how the stitch works, but not how to start it.  Got there in the end, though, by process of logic.  Just as well that hasn't gone, too...

I did briefly think about swapping the front and central pages round, but decided not to...they've been trimmed to fit the way they are, swapping them round would require a further trimming, and I want to avoid that.  Given that no real narrative for the book has yet emerged, it wouldn't have affected the flow or meaning of the book.  That's unusual for me; usually there's a story, a meaning, a sense of how things relate to each other, that requires a particular structure, even when the work is largely abstract.  I think that's why I'm drawing a blank on writing a poem to go inside the book.  Perhaps something will emerge...that often happens with titles and concepts.  I start with one thing, and end up with that thing, but also with other meanings and ideas.  That's what I like about making art.  I'm not following a pattern or a template; each piece is unique.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Stitch Up.

I felt like doing a bit of stitch, so decided to do a bit more with the second of the two monoprint books I talked about here.  I started by trimming it carefully (and that took all the energy for a while...).

And because of that, I decided to hand stitch.  I have no proof that it takes more energy to machine sew...but it does when the machine isn't set up... sigh.  And in truth, I wanted to see how the hand stitch would work.  I think it does...but it does come with its own issues.

We are taught from the very first stitch, that the back should look as good as the front.  That's fairly easy to do when working with a quilt sandwich, just by burying the knot in the batting.  This, though, is flat, so it's an exposed knot or a double back stitch.  Reader, I went for the double back stitch.  So far so good, huh?   I stitched all the way round the shape (have a look)...only to (stupidly) catch said double back stitch with my needle, and pull half of it out.  No, I really wasn't up for unpicking, so thought, okay, I'll catch the end with the stitch I'm making... and then the paper tore...sigh...and I ended up, yes, you guessed it, with a knot, albeit a small knot, which you wouldn't notice unless you knew were it was.  No, I'm not telling you...and yes, I continued with small knots... they're not particularly noticeable either... fortunately.

The temptation is to work the page as a whole, and that, I felt was necessary for the main motif, that curve, which runs over the fold of the paper.  On reflection, though, I decided that, other than stitching any single motif that occurred in that manner, I needed to respond to each individual half as a separate piece of work. 

The stitch is important, not just because of its effect on the 'front' page, but because of its effect on the reverse.  The reverse has only the bleed from the front, which clearly is not as strong, so the stitch is important in delineating what's going on in the image.  Here's an image showing you how that worked out...I think it's at least as interesting as the reverse, if not more so, in some ways.

I wanted to add some stitches above the main motif, and added crosses to the yellow area which I seem to be reading as the sky.  Another of the rules we're taught right at the beginning, is that all stitches have to be even and similar.  Fortunately, however, this is art, and I can use the skills I learned then, to subvert the tradition. 

And that's as far as I've got.  Time for a rest. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Playing About...

...with the watercolour crayons again.  For quite a while, I've been wondering why my paintings are so unlike my textiles, notably, these garden paintings such as 'Summer Garden', which hangs in my living room.  I have made several garden quilts; a series called 'Dawn In The Healer's Garden', which, astonishingly to me, don't appear on this blog, except in this little glimpse... from which you can see that the quilts appear to be significantly more structured than this painting, although, interestingly, the intention behind both approaches was the same.  I wanted to suggest a series of random glimpses of colour and movement that is possible in a garden, particularly a cottage garden, where flowers are grown en masse, and wave in the wind. 

I went out for half an hour yesterday, which has left me too damn tired to do anything with textiles, but the crayons and a sketchbook were to hand, so I thought I'd play with them, to replicate this sort of look.  Only to discover that it wasn't really possible...or not in the way I was working...

I think the problem is the type of mark it's possible to make with crayons.  They're not as easy to manipulate as paint, or maybe I'm just too lazy, or too tired, to make the kind of small mark that I was aiming for.  This drawing makes me think, not of a garden, but of a distant forest in autumn... or it did, until I applied water, and then it all went to hell in a handcart.  I had expected a bit of muddying of the clear colours that the crayons give, but what I wasn't expecting was the brush to moult.  Substantially. Which you can't see in the image below, but trust me, there's lots of the little blighters.  Growl.  I suspect I would have got the result I wanted, had I been able to spray the paint with water, rather than using a brush....but we'll never know.

You've heard me say that 'nothings succeeds as planned' frequently throughout the life of this blog.  I can actually see some potential for further work, though... not done in this way, though.  It's possible to make monoprints using watercolour crayons; in truth, that's why I bought them in the first place, it's just that I never actually tried it.  I can see that blocks of colour would be really interesting... possibly combined with a bit of collage.  So it's not all lost.  Play is never a waste of time; there's always something to learn.  Hurrah. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


is an ongoing theme in my work; if you pop the word into the search box top left of the page, you'll get a selection of posts on that theme.  So it's perhaps not surprising that I've come back to it yet again, while thinking about another book.  It might be a reflection of my scattered mind...  Whatever the reason, I found myself collecting scraps of rust dyed silk.  I find them fascinating; in fact, I find rust dyed anything. fascinating, but silk in particular. The combination of lustre and texture is truly seductive. 

I don't have much in the way of scrap, as a couple of my friends will testify...they kindly donated some when I bemoaned the fact last year.  I got rid of lots and lots of it during The Great Purge.  I kept most of the rust dyes, though.  The fabric itself is fascinating (I think we've established that, right?), but it's in the scrap that we get to have the best view, I think, because there's not so much detail to look at.  Here's one of the pieces that started me off raking around in my silk collection.

It's very small indeed.  I'm drawn to the texture but mostly, to the curves.  On a larger scale, this might inspire a piece of work (oh lord, another idea...aaargh...).  I started raking through the rust box because I don't have enough scrap to fill a book, and I don't want to mix in other types of fabric.  I found a piece to fussy cut into smaller segments...which feels like cheating, certainly, but needs must etc.  I chose it, not because it's particularly interesting, but because there are small random spots of dye, which I don't want to feature in anything I make... not sure how that happened, but it would have been a long time ago, so not worth worrying about.

There's certainly enough interesting bits to supply the book, so that's done... but of course, when faced with a box full of fabric, it would be rude not to continue... and look what I found, without really trying...

This wants to be hand stitched, as I have done with a number of rust dyed pieces (check it out here).  The first one I did, I tried machine stitch, but really didn't like it, not enough texture, and have stuck to hand stitch ever since.  There's a short series entitled 'Flotsam and Jetsam', which I posted about here.  I don't think this wants to be part of that, though... it makes me think, not of the beach, but of autumn.  One to any case, it'll need to wait until I can stand long enough to sort out some batting.

This next one, though, I can do something with Right Now.  It wants to be a scarf...'s just long enough.  It won't tie, but a small brooch or pin will hold it beautifully.  All I need to do is hand roll the edges, which is about all I've got the energy for at the moment, albeit in small stages, one thread at a time. 

And at that point, I stopped looking.... no point in planning more than I can reasonably do, given my fractured mind tends to throw up more ideas than I can cope with, on a daily basis.  I'd like to do some more rust dyeing, but at present I have more than enough to work with, and, of course, all of my rusty bits were ditched before the move, so I'll have to find some more before I can continue...sigh...  it may be the only type of dyeing I have the energy for.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Total Coincidence.

Artists get really irate when they think that art is being bought 'to match the sofa'.  Surely, they say, there must be more to it than that... and usually there is.  Every so often, however, there's a coming together of art and in our downstairs loo... yes, that's right...   Several years before we left Norfolk, I made this painting, 'Impasse'. 

I have no idea where the idea came from, but in my head, I have a whole story about what's going on, and who these people are.  I have a fondness for it, even though it's completely unlike anything I've ever painted, in many respects.  Until now, though, I've had nowhere to put it; it is a strong, vibrant piece, and it just didn't sit well anywhere in the Norfolk house.  Here, though, as you can see, the downstairs loo is grey and white.  I added red towels, to brighten it up a bit (it has no window, so relies on artificial lighting).  Bingo! Finally I had a place to put it.  It works quite well, I think. 

The texture doesn't show up in the overall image, so here's a close up.  Texture is a recurrent theme in my work, whether textile or paint. 

This is acrylic, I's so long since I painted it, I don't really remember sigh... really should keep better records...

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Changing The Approach.

I would like to think I'm an innovator.  I would like to think that I do unusual things, change things around, try things out...  Yesterday, though, I realised just how conditioned I am to doing things a certain way.  Perhaps we all are. 

I'm still struggling with stamina, but I wanted to do something with my hands, so raked out an unfinished piece. It's a piece of hand dyed cotton, to which I'd embellished a piece of patterned silk, and a scrap of velveteen, with a couple of smaller pieces of  fabric added.  It makes me think of a boat at sail in a high wind, somehow, although the 'sail' looks like a landscape, with fields and flowers.   I decided to add stitch to it, and fished out some hand dyed perle for the upper area.  Here it is so far.  You can see the stitch in the upper right hand corner.

I chose irregular crosses; at the time, I wasn't sure why.  My intention, though, was to fill the whole of that upper area with these stitches.  And then, suddenly, I wasn't so sure. 

Those stitches, to me, looked like a flock of birds, swirling around in that area.  I didn't want to lose that sense of movement, though I admit it would be better in a stronger contrasting colour, but I don't have anything better to hand, and the contrast is stronger in real life than in the image.  Why, I wondered, did I feel that it was important to fill the whole of the area with stitch?  I think it has to do with traditional quilting, perhaps, which is where I started out.  Lots of small, even stitches, covering the whole of the piece.  I've never done small and even, in art, because I believe in the power of the random mark, though the few traditional quilts I have made over the years follow that basis...and for good, technical reasons.  There are no good technical reasons to fill this piece with stitch, however.  I don't need to hold layers together.  It will never be washed.  I don't need to concern myself with wrinkling or creasing.  This is about a message, the creation of meaning, not about structure or technique or anything else. 

And at that point, I was reminded of one of the women I worked with at Dereham Hub.  She took to stitch like a duck to water.  I'm not naming her to respect her privacy.  She gifted me with some of her work before we left Norfolk: here is an example.

I love this little square.  I think it's spontaneous, well balanced and joyful.  Instinctual. She took pieces of fabric that spoke to her, cut bits off and stitched them on using a series of cross stitches.  She hasn't worried about what side to start or finish the thread: there are little bits sticking out on both sides.  Some of the crosses, are real crosses, others are close, but not quite there.  I don't know if anyone showed her cross stitch, or if she invented it for herself, incidentally.  I like the way the stitches lie.  I suspect she used the first thread that came to hand.  I know that she had no real sense of utility in stitching; when she stitched a bag, she stitched through both layers, making the functionality of the bag was, though, a very attractive bag shaped, reversible hanging. 

I'd like to make work that is much closer to this piece, than to what I make at present.  Genuine mark making, without worrying about anything at all.  Doing what seems right, with no thought of functionality or even of practical consequence.  If I can do it... I can also work through any technical issues that that deed creates....though in truth, I can't imagine that any would arise.  How interesting that, in the end, this becomes a question of self belief, of letting go, of pure creativity. 

So...what of the piece?  I think that I've added enough crosses.  I don't feel the need to add any more.  I'd like to add some stitch lower down, in a darker colour, to reflect this idea of sea... might couch, might embellish... might do nothing at all.  At this moment, my money's on nothing at all.  The level of discomfort I have with it as it is, is less than I suspect it would be if I added more stitch.  Leaving it as it is ensures maximum ambiguity.  If you want to read it as a ship, you can.  If you want to read it as fields and a loch, you can.  Or anything else you see in it.  I'm not going to impose my map on the world on the piece.  I want the same, instinctual feel as the green piece has.  And now I need to find something else to do....