Monday, 28 October 2013

Autumn Gold

Recent mild autumn weather has had me out with my camera and searching for autumnal photos. Here are a few to tempt ...

A local hedgerow ...


The Colne Valley ...


... and the wonders of Westonbirt Arboretum - both the last two in Gloucestershire ...


Soon we're off to Aberdeenshire in Scotland - always a favourite place for us and a place where the autumn colours sing. I think it's the combination of the low, gentle northern light, the regular frosts and the mixed woodland. Acid green larches stand next to delicious copper beeches and Scots pine. 

My camera is waiting to be packed so more may follow.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

On stopping and naming

I named it only when it was finished, as it was not until that moment that I knew what it was about. My needle at the moment of completion, became silent.

I recently came across the work of  Denise Jones and her fellow artists in the group Quinary12 in a small exhibition in the Pop Up Gallery in Brewery Arts, Cirencester. The exhibition was their first together since graduating and I really enjoyed what I saw and had an excellent time talking to the artists.

Embroidering between print and ink -
Denise Jones on the group blog of Quinary 12
Together, the group have set up a blog where I found this lovely thought - and the work shown left - from Denise which really seemed to speak to me - the thought that her needle was silent at the moment of completion. She only knew her work was finished when the needle had nothing more to say.

Her thoughts summed up for me what it is like to stitch spontaneously and instinctively as I usually do. Though I work round ideas a lot, I often don't plan an individual piece of work in detail. I decide on colour, form and stitch and then just see what develops.

In the end, I generally know when something is finished though I can't predict the moment when this is going to happen. I just stop when it feels right and balanced but, when I get it 'right', there is that special little bit of the unexpected.

Also, I seem to feel this need very strongly to find a title for my work that says something about what it's about; that summarises it in some way. Perhaps, there is a need to explain a little - or is it a lack of confidence that the work will stand on its own without explanation?

And then sometimes when I'm free stitching, I have no idea at the start what the work is going to turn out to be and often change my mind several times as it develops. Like her, as I finish, I find its name and its meaning - at least for me.



Thursday, 24 October 2013

Contours, colour and wandering holes

I've been busy trying out another landscape experiment in paper with contours, colour and holes wandering across the page.



This time, I've cut the paper into three strips which could be mounted together to form one piece - or become three separate pieces side-by-side.

It's extraordinary how much busier it looks photographed and on screen. But then it is about twice the size in reality. I must look again critically and at a distance to see whether that's how I want it or not.

I'm still working in paper - though I'm not sure why. I seem strangely reluctant to translate all this into fabric. Maybe it's trying to tell me something. Things so often do if I give them time.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Contours in Black and White

Another lovely day was spent with Chris Cook down at Marlborough Embroiderers' Guild on Tuesday. I've signed up again this year for her six Design for Stitch sessions, one a month till April. It will keep me thinking and learning and challenged I've no doubt.

For this session we were printing and concentrating on creating and handling tone - no colour, just black and white ... so right up my street.


My piece, as so often, took on a landscape persona. I couldn't resist a long, narrow format or my favourite contour and hillside running stitch.


This time I threw in some machine stitching and couching as Chris suggested. The result is most definitely a sample with far too much happening in one piece but I think there is potential in the idea for developing my Cotswold Edge work.

One possible approach might be to add one or two lines of red stitching to give some pop - or I might take the scissors to it and cut it into small pieces for gridding in some way. I will get out my windows and try and see if I can abstract any small gems. If neither of these works, it will go in my samples box for future use.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Visiting Bath

I spent yesterday in the city of Bath with my husband and a good friend. Especially, we visited Holburne Museum, a small but fascinating museum in Sydney Gardens near the centre of the city.

We both love the city of Bath - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and extraordinary in its extent and in the beauty of its buildings.  These date mostly from the second half of the 18th century and were built using the lovely local honey-coloured stone.

We used to live in the city in the 1970s - just round the corner from the Holburne, in fact - and have visited the city regularly since but we haven't been to the museum and gallery since its recent refurbishment - and beautiful it was too.

Most of the objects we saw on display were bought by a private collector, Sir William Holburne, in the 19th century. Wealthy collectors like him have amassed a hugely rich heritage for us and we love visiting the various museums and galleries around the country that house the objects.

The eclectic collection shown includes silver, ceramics, paintings, textiles and a wide variety of other objects. There were some delightful pieces to see and, as always, I've included what I can of my favourites - though photography was not all always that successful and that has limited my choice.

First of all, one of a pair of bronze candlesticks on a windowsill and taken looking out of the window and straight down Pultney Street to the centre of the city ...

 and then a lovely silver cow creamer - surprisingly modern-looking ..


... and some wonderful embroidered gloves dating from the end of the 18th centrury ...


There was also a fantastic oil painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younter - called The Visit of the Godfather - that I couldn't photograph and lots of beautiful, highly decorated silver which I would love to be able to show. All was beautifully displayed and accessible. It was a lovely visit.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Doodling in Stitch

I doodle in stitch - but never with a pencil. I have no idea why.

It's where I go when there is not a lot else to do or when down time is needed. It's where I can stitch in repose without explanation or justifying to myself the time spent. I just work the needle as the spirit moves me, making marks and shapes in response to the cloth - and such therapy it is.



Here is the latest little morsel - a response on a simple little piece of monoprinted cloth that I blogged about in September. In reality, the stitching is more visible and gives much more surface texture - but it seems unwilling to let me photograph it properly.


To me, it suggests perhaps a Cotswold stone wall, warm in the sun, with its nooks and crannies and secrets ... but then really it matters not at all what it is. Being something is not its purpose.


Monday, 14 October 2013

Monochrome woodcut

I recently bought a lovely, delicate woodcut that I would like to share.

It is by artist and engraver John B Souter who trained at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen in Scotland in the 1920s. I know nothing about this artist - and Google unearthed only the bare bones for me - but, in my current black and white phase (well, some of the time), I was very taken with this little print.


I don't know the title or where it was done but it has a calm and nostalgic air and gives a glimpse of farming in the age before mechanisation. I love the clarity of the execution and the composition. Somehow Souter manages to pull off the half and half division of the piece, perhaps because of the bright contrast in the water in the foreground which occupies roughly the bottom third. Or maybe it's because of the diagonal edge to the pond on the right hand side which draws the eye in to the gate and the open barn.

Over the years, we have bought other woodcuts as well as many etchings by Scottish artists such as Alec Fraser and D Y Cameron. I'm always surprised at how cheap these woodcuts and etchings are. They can often be bought framed for as little as £100. To me, they are wonderfully graphic and I love the contrast and simplicity of the monochrome. They also seem to sit well in modern interiors in white or cream mounts and simple black frames, despite their traditional subject matter and realism.

I will share some of these etchings on another occasion.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mark making ... with a difference

My 3 year old grand-daughter and I, we've cut and stuck, painted, made cards and crowns, and printed. Today, we made a puppet and a birthday card for her cousin. She loves it all and considers my workroom to be pure heaven.

Recently, I watched her sitting on her folding frog camping chair beside her parents' caravan 'sketching'. She was drawing in the little sketch book I'd given her, looking across the campsite on a warm autumn day. Dare I say it, there were recognisable and interesting marks - a shed (just) and grass, lots of it ...


I'm surrounded by scientists in my family. All of them - even the newly acquired son and daughter in-law and their parents - are biologists, mathematicians, engineers or chemists. I love them dearly but there's not an arts graduate among them.

Could she be the first, or is that wishful thinking?


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Slad

I'm struggling to focus myself at the moment - far too many ideas jostling for attention and difficulties working out how to realise them so they look as I want - any of them ...

Right now, in an effort to think in a different way about the work for the series of pieces on the Cotswold Edge, I've been rereading that beautiful classic Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. It is an autobiographical account of Lee's growing up in the nineteen twenties in the Gloucestershire village of Slad which nestles in the hills near Stroud right on the Cotswold edge.

The language of the book is rich and poetic and describes in great detail the simple life of a working class boy growing up with his mother and siblings just after the end of the First World War.

I've found on the internet a photo of the cover of my copy - now lost, sadly. It was published by Penguin Books in 1962, before we went decimal and so cost the grand sum of 3 shillings and 6 pence - now about 15 pence.

I'd forgotten how much I had enjoyed it when I first read it in my teens whilst I was at school. On this reread, I have been especially taken with the lovely descriptions of the landscape, the people and the way of life.

Take this quote for instance:

"The great beech filled at least half the sky and shook shadows all over the house. Its roots clutched the slope like a giant hand, holding the hill in place. Its trunk writhed with power, threw off veils of green dust, rose towering into the air, branched into a thousand shaded alleys, became a city for owls and squirrels. I had thought such trees to be as old as the earth; I never dreamed that a man could make them. Yet it was Granny Trill's dad who had planted this tree, had thrust in the seed with his finger. How old must he have been to leave such a mark? Think of Granny's age, and add his on top, and you were back at the beginning of the world."

It is certainly giving me something to think about ...



Saturday, 5 October 2013

Adobe Magic

As time goes by, I seem to be becoming more and more of a textile vagrant, taking things from here and there, jumping from one thing to another and experimenting with all sorts of techniques.

This time, in an idle moment and using a photo of a favourite river taken in Scotland, I decided to explore further some of the features of my (very old) version of Adobe Photoshop. I used the liquify function (it seemed appropriate to the subject matter) and played with the colour intensity and hues.

These were the result and I think they could transfer well to textiles ... sometime!


... colour inverted and intensified ...


... and then changed and inverted again ...


What fun this is ... sometime, I must treat myself to the latest version of this lovely programme, though I think I may need a computer update before I do. Has anyone got experience of competitor programmes? I guess they might be even better ...


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Doing surprising things

Sometimes I find myself doing surprising things - and today was one of those days.

I'm not a quilter as I've always thought it was too formal for me as a technique - too rigid and mathematical - so I generally avoid occasions when I might be asked to quilt. Today though, Great Western Embroiderers, the group I stitch and exhibit with, had invited the excellent Kate Dowty to do her Scrappy Collage workshop for us.

We had a lovely day - and I quilted along with all the others, and much to my surprise, enjoyed myself. Kate had brought along small examples of  her quilted wall hangings to inspire us. Her work can be found on her website and is well worth a look.

We were asked to create a layered and quilted representation of a hedgerow, a field with wild flowers or a flower border in our garden. I chose (approximately) the last of these.

Kate demonstrated the layering techniques and her informal approach - not a cut hexagon or formal quilting layout in sight. This is definitely my sort of quilting - layering and machine stitching I can do.

I have not finished my piece. I've realised that in workshops I'm a slow worker - in fact I get really flustered if I feel I have to rush - and there's no pleasure in that. I like to think about what I'm doing and try out composition and colouring at leisure.

Though I don't feel the colours work and there is still a lot to do, if I choose to do it, I'm posting what I've done so far to give some idea of what we were asked to do and of Kate's approach.

I've also asked Adobe Photoshop to get to work on the colours and I much prefer the results, especially the second of the two.


I think this, if nothing else, is definitely a technique and approach to have in my armoury, though I won't be using it in the pieces I'm working on right now, or probably for some while, though you never know.

If you get a chance to hear Kate talk or attend a workshop with her, do - she is very approachable and a reassuring and gentle teacher.