Thursday, 17 April 2014

Green lines

In the glorious weather we've had here in the UK recently, the green of new growth is everywhere and in every shade imaginable. Sorting photos for my post for this round of Roy G Biv has been a case of careful selection rather than hard searching.

At the moment, I find myself spending a great deal of time exploring lines in landscape. Horizontal, vertical or diagonal, straight or wandering, natural or man made, my eye seems to be drawn to lines of crops, tracks, fences, hills and watercourses, by concrete objects and by shadows so this green post features these lines.

Following the heavy and persistent rain of winter, tractor tracks through fields of crops are particularly marked. I've been watching this field near my house with its lone tree and growing winter wheat since January ...

and just beside it, I've watched the flood waters of this wandering stream recede and the rich green growth intensify ...

and everywhere there are the vertical lines of growing crops - here oilseed rape, the most advanced ...

... and here the diagonal lines of fence shadows thrown over the grass in my garden ...

and last of all - and not organic - a green fence enclosing huge arrays of solar panels just down the road towards Chippenham ... 

... and generating green electricity!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Beguiled by April

Today has been the most beautiful spring day here in the southern UK. I was beguiled by the warm sunshine to sit in the garden and draw. There were a hundred and one things I should have been doing this afternoon, but I did none of them.

I picked spikes of newly unfurling horse chestnut from the tree at the end of our garden and sat and did one of my favourite things - I drew without looking and without any reason or end purpose for the result. Such a relief after all the grim greyness of winter and such pleasure it was ...

As I drew, I thought of the child that tree was planted for and who is now grown up with children of her own, the passing of the seasons and so to my own grandchildren who run with pleasure about our garden and search out the conkers from that tree every autumn.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Starting things you can't do

This post is something of a chain reaction since I'm writing it as a result of reading and replying to recent posts by Connie Rose on her wonderfully varied blog and by Margaret Cooter (introduced to me by Connie) who has also had much to say on the subject.

They were both writing about doing something new and Margaret especially was asking why people start something they can't do at all, with all the uncertainty, the inevitable failures and the frustrations.

When I retired almost 7 years ago, I took up textile art with very little specific previous experience but with a great deal of enthusiasm and a belief that given time I might be able to 'do it'. So perhaps that's some sort of an answer to the question of why people start completely new things - a certain level of faith, maybe blind and misguided, but nevertheless faith in themselves and their abilities.

Also, there was for me then a need to start something new and enthralling after giving up a very fulfilling and time-consuming job. I am no good at just pottering. I need a 'passion' to occupy and intrigue me otherwise I quickly become bored and frustrated.

For me though it was about more than just time-filling. All my adult life I'd told myself that, when I had time, I would go back intensively to the 'arty stuff' that I'd parked in my early 20s to earn a living. I knew that this was what I was going to do - not quite how - but certainly in general terms that art in some form was what I would turn to. This new start was the result of a promise to myself and, at some deep level, I felt I had no choice but to keep if I was to have peace of mind.

I love the challenge of learning in any situation. It's a thrill for me. I find all the reading, researching, asking of questions, experimenting and playing fascinating for its own sake as well as for what it then allows me to do. Perhaps then, that is another aspect to it all - a love of learning and seeking out new skills.

I suppose also that the curiosity that makes us human drives us forward to seek out new areas of endeavour, even when the areas are unknown, puzzling and fraught with risk. There is the 'How would that work?', 'What if I did that?' and 'perhaps if I tried that' which is irresistible.

I've luckily discovered that starting anew in this way could be exciting as well as intimidating. I've posted here two of my very early pieces that I am happy to admit to. There were many others that didn't make the grade. These two were both serious labours of love, in hand stitch only, because I had yet to learn to use a sewing machine creatively. By the time I had completed the first - the white on white piece I called Moon and Stars - I was hooked. So perhaps that is another answer - we are seeking the small moments of thrill when things start to take shape against all the odds.

Textile art has introduced me to very good friends, both here and in the 'real' world. I'm sure that companionship is what many seek when they look for new things and that this is especially true for women. We like to talk to and support one another and above all to find and interact with kindred spirits. This is an important driver for us.

Above all though, for me, I seek the pleasure this textile art thing brings, pure and simple. I ask myself every time I sit down to draw, paint or stitch, what more could I want? I just know how lucky am I to have the time, the interest and the opportunity to do it when I want.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Contrast and 3D

Today I'm posting a further glimpse of finished work - a 3D piece developed from the sketch book study I posted about on 26 March. It's a quilted and Möbius twisted piece echoing the lines, shapes and contours of the Cotswold Hills where I live.

I'm sure there is still more to explore with this form and with the stitching lines so I have a feeling I'll be back with it fairly soon ...

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Snippets from Lydiard House

We opened our exhibition at Lydiard House, Swindon yesterday with a private view - a lovely afternoon with excellent attendance and much kindness from all who came.

Those of you who read this blog regularly may remember the beginnings of the woven piece shown below - or at least the small snippets shown as I went along.

This is what it turned into - a twisted, gently wired Möbius form, playing with the contours and colours of the Cotswold Hills. I've called it Stroud Form and it's part of my Cotswold Edge series.

You may also recognise the small pieces on the table beside it, all set out in the staterooms of the house, alongside the artefacts and furnishings.

It's a most interesting venue in which to exhibit and makes us look afresh at what we are doing.

It was hard to pick favourites from amongst all the variety but I've chosen a very small selection from other members of the group that seemed especially to speak to me. I hope they show something of the range of the work and reflect the setting within the house. 

First of all there is a beautiful 3D textile pot by Ruth Hayman called Smocked Pot. Ruth stitched and smocked in a wonderfully random fashion onto a transfer dyed ground and then wired the whole to give the piece a quirky, mishapen form. It's even more of a delight than this trickily lit photo can suggest. 

The next is Painted Window, a lovely cushion by Jane Smith which refers to a fascinating, brightly coloured window at the far end of the house. I've struggled to show the textures of the piece in this photo. It's done in scrappy collage and has lots of machine embroidery - but to me it's very satisfying and tactile.

Then there is The One Who Is by Anne Hayhoe, a response to the parable of the Lost Sheep. This is a mixed media textile hanging with, among other media, charcoal, paper, acrylic paint, and foil. The lost sheep is hard to find but it is there ...

I could have chosen much more to show and maybe I will do so before the exhibition ends on June 1st. 


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Sketchbooks at Lydiard

I almost always display my sketchbooks or journals when I am exhibiting work and there is space available to do so. Shown below is a page from my latest journal showing progress towards a 3 D stitched piece (and maybe other things too in the future - who knows) developing black and white, the tracery of branches and contour lines and hills.

I'll show the whole black and white piece once the exhibition is set up ... and once the piece is finished ...

I love the whole process of working my way through and round a new series of work. The taking of photos, playing in Adobe Photoshop, finding of other references, consideration of stitch patterns and experimenting with ideas in paper all give me great enjoyment - as much pleasure, in fact, as the work on the final piece. There is a freedom about the process where mistakes don't matter and indeed may well turn out not to be mistakes at all.

Recording this practice as I go in a large spiro bound journal - around 40 cm by 25 cm - is, for me, a part of the process of organising my thoughts and deciding what to do. When I see things mounted and on a page side by side I often find myself making links I hadn't thought of. 

I'll have the latest journal - not finished because these never are - on view for the next two months at Lydiard House, Swindon, where I'll be exhibiting with Great Western Embroiderers from Thursday of next week. As usual, the whole thing is work in progress with lots of uncertainty on every page and possibilities for the future. 

Several other members also keep sketchbooks of one kind or another and these will also be on view.  

This time, I think we all feel particular pleasure in showing our books as the archives of Lydiard House contain small sketchbooks produced by members of the St John family who previously lived in the house. Many of these relate to their travels and in particular to The Grand Tour so often undertaken by the children of wealthy families in their twenties. Through our own sketchbooks, we feel part of the continuing process.

I've included two photos of St John family sketchbooks below. The first is a drawing of Lahneck in the German Rhineland. I don't know who drew it but I find it charming and a search on Google revealed very recognisable photographs of the turreted buildings - a real pleasure! 

The second was a watercolour of the Ghazipur district in India. After the success with the first, I Googled this too and again learnt all about the area. 
One member of our group took this painting as a starting point for a piece of work - I will maybe show it also once the exhibition is open.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Drawing with straight lines

I seem to have been chasing after myself this week - too much to do, and wanting to do all of it! Time to spend on the online course with Dionne Swift that I stared on Monday has been very hard to come by.

Still, this weekend I've managed to catch up a bit and spent much of yesterday drawing with straight lines using various media for mark making and straight edges of different sizes. I've really enjoyed what I've done. Two examples are shown here, the first trying to achieve curves or near circles and the second using mainly vertical lines ...

Neither of these are quite what we were asked to do but rather my extension of the tasks Dionne gave us. To find out exactly what this is all about you will have to sign up for Drawing for Textiles on Dionne Swift's website - it's well worth the money!