Monday, 28 March 2016

Time Marches on.

March is nearly through, so I thought it was about time I posted again. I've just spent another fabulous weekend on a stitch retreat, this time with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. Despite having a horrible sore throat and other cold symptoms which kept me awake it was everything I'd hoped.  Since retiring I have set myself the challenge of developing my skills as a textile artist. The Creative Quilt-making C&G cert. set me off. However I have always found hand stitching more challenging. Machine embroidery gives quick(er) results than hand stitching, but I love the richness of texture and surface detail that can only be achieved with hand stitch. Jan and Jean must be two of the most well known practitioners of creative embroidery, so it was definitely worth listening to what they had to say about embroidery as well as their amusing anecdotes about their travels teaching round the world. They combine machine and hand stitching, embellishing, bonding, dissolvable fabrics, infact any method that produces the effect they are looking for.
I think the most important thing I've taken on board this year is the need to practice and experiment and then more practice and more experimentation. When you're attending a workshop with a skilled teacher it is so easy to take it for granted that you will be able to go home and apply the skills you've just learned about.  I frequently have a go at home with my newly purchase materials and manage, unguided, to make a dog's dinner! So thank you Hilary Beatie, thank you Maggie Grey and thank you Jan and Jean for giving me enough techniques to practice for the rest of my life! Hilary, on the retreat, and Maggie at a demo at Art Van Go convinced me that I must stop being so precious about my sometimes expensive materials and be prepared to create some colourful dog's dinners. I'm not going to improve my results if I don't get experimenting. Jan and Jean impressed upon us that they continually experiment and practice their stitching, never taking anything for granted.  I just watched Hilary Beattie's quirky video on Facebook where she talks about how she made herself a career in textile art. Nobody could deny that beneath all of these artist there are years of hard work and an underlying self belief. Hilary shared with her viewers how diligent she was at making a five year plan and then breaking that down into one year, months and weeks - and she stuck at it. 
So... time to make a new plan? I did make one when I started out, to learn about textiles. I can say I have covered much that I'd aimed for. So now may be a good time to set out some new objectives. I do not need to plan a career or a way of making a living. I do not want to commit myself to a lot of exhibitions,  However I do want a challenge and to move forward.  I shall take my time sorting out some priorities and setting myself achievable goals as well as challenges. I will share my journey here, but don't hold your breath, but committing myself here on my blog is the first step.

I also popped into Art Van Go to see Maggie Grey give a super demonstration of Pebeo Prisme ceramic paints to add a few special effects to her multi media pieces  Had to treat myself to a few pots and trialed a few inchies.  They are great fun - not sure how I shall be using them, but the effects are lovely.

Here we are at Wyboston - a  large group, but we did have two very experienced tutors.

First evening I took a bit of stitching to bed!

We practiced textured stitching, trying to raise the surface and make lots of texture.

 On Sunday we all displayed our work Jan and Jean were very supportive and totally inspiring.

A visit to our local craft shop yielded a few bargains which I have subjected to some dyeing, inspired by Double Trouble, to increase my yarn selection.

Below are two close up of 3 inch square samples experimenting with depicting a flint wall

Below: exploring some more ideas

I keep postponing posting this post! I'm busy experimenting, but if I wait any longer I will have to rewrite the whole thing, so I'm pressing the 'Publish' button and saving anything new for next time.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

It's about time...

Oh dear, it's February.  No excuses I'll just get on with it...

Rather shocked by the death of David Bowie whose music I have always loved- he's been one of the artists who has always been part of the sound track of my life. I saw him twice in the seventies and I searched out my badge from the '78 gig. 

I had to make a couple of pages in my journal (written on now) and I keep finding Bowie tracks running through my head, I'm still very sad.

Mr T go a copy of Black Star last week but we still haven't found the right moment to listen to it.

 The high light of January was my Stitch Retreat weekend at Wyboston Lakes.

It was a follow-up from last year's gelli print weekend with Hilary Beattie.
Most of last year's group were there and as quite a few of us have kept in touch via Facebook it was a matter of getting back with old friends so everyone felt at ease straight away. I hope that those new to the group felt that way too.

After unpacking all of our 'stuff' Hilary took us through a routine for sorting potential material for a new piece.  We brought some of our prints from last year and other papers and fabrics we'd dyed, printed etc.

I've 'stolen' Judth's picture here as I'm in it (back, right).  So the first evening we sorted and then worked on our materials till we felt we had enough to create a collage.

I retired to bed quite early, shattered, only to find when I was in my PJs I'd left my iPad in the work room.  It was a long walk back, our bedrooms seem to on the outer reaches of the complex. I didn't quite have the nerve to walk through reception in my flowery jim-jams, but hastily pulled a layer of clothes over the top.
 On Saturday Hilary gave us lots of ideas on developing layouts for collage backgrounds. One of her ideas was to use traditional quilt blocks, but in a much looser way.  Here are a couple of pages in my sketchbook using a "log cabin" layout.

We then used these ideas on our fabric and paper pieces and applied the background to a piece of felt.

The next task was to stitch the pieces down.

By Sunday morning everyone had their sewing machines out.

We finished Sunday afternoon, everyone determined that we should repeat the weekend next year.
I cannot begin to describe how much good the break did me.  Hillary was brilliant at sharing her processes and working methods.  Of course  everyone works in a different way and this was reflected in our final 'show' when we looked at everyones work. I will include a link to Hilary's blog where you can see the photographs she took of everyone's work.

I came away with a battery of practical ideas for developing sketchbook work, with ideas for layout and colour.  I found one of Hilary's recommendations second hand on the web, and I had to buy some Gelato colour sticks to play with.

  I also came away with a nearly completed piece of work which I have finished stitching at home, and it is now ready for mounting. What is great, is that it is thoroughly me, using pieces I'd stencilled with one of my own designs.

I tried the mounting method Hilary shared on this little sampler piece. It's part of the Capability Brown project.  So I now have a small hanging. When I have time I shall try it on my larger piece.

Meanwhile I need to get back to my proper Capability Brown piece.  I was pleased with the free cut pieced background, and I'm now playing around with ideas for appliqué.

My weekend away gave me the break I so desperately needed.  Home life can be a bit stressful, and I know I can be my own worse enemy.   It was wonderful not having to take anyone else's needs into consideration for a couple of days.   I'm going on another retreat in March with Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. How lovely that a couple of friends from this weekend will be there too.  Looking forward to it very much, and guessing it will be very different. I'm also looking at the possibility of some others later in the year.
Here are a couple of links to other blogs about the weekend:
Heather - one of my fellow retreaters:

Hope 2016 is going well for you - so far…

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Nearly November… No Nearly 2016!!!

I started this post way back in November when I was doing a lot of 'thinking'.  I am committed to take part in two exhibitions next year and I like to take my time, considering my options and then ideas seem to come in a rush.  Firstly I am part of our local Embroiders' Guild group creating work to celebrate "Capability" Lancelot Brown's tricentenary next year. The Embroiders' Guild has join up with the National Trust and English Heritage to stage exhibitions and events across the country in many of the great houses who employed this man to landscape their estates I am working from Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire where he landscaped the "Golden Valley"… and secondly I have joined another group exhibiting next October in Hertford. More on that another time.

I used to visit Ashridge a lot at one period of my life and had no idea of its history. In fact the main forested area was a deer park dating back to pre-tudor times.  Brown didn't do a lot there, but it is part of the beautiful Chiltern landscape which I have photographed a lot. As an extra to my Brown piece I have been working on some small collages in my sketchbook and some samples.  This turned into creating miniature landscapes which I have pieced together, my Chiltern Ninepatch.

Work in Progress:
"Chiltern Ninepatch"



Patch rehearsal

Stage 1

Stage 2 

Now do I add more embellishments and then make it into a hanging or a cushion cover?

The Chilterns around Luton.

I'm going to publish now - trying to keep in brief and trying to post more often. 
My end of year resolution.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Another month goes by

I started this post at the beginning of June, but  stopped as I didn't have a lot to say, but June has proved to be very eventful, and now it's nearly over. At the end of May news brought me up short. My old friend from college and then work rang to tell me that her partner of over 40 years has died after a short illness. They lived a very busy life and I had only bumped into her  couple of times since I retired. However I have seen her lots of times since and we have spent many hours laughing about our mis-spent twenties, before our social lives went their separate ways. All the clichés about old friends has proved right and we have a few outings planned for the summer. How sad that it took tragic circumstances to bring us back together.
I shall be glad of her company as I have lost a regular slot in my diary.  I was totally shocked when Gina contacted the group to say the Spectrum was folding. I suppose it is only natural that these sort of groups run their course but as I am a 'new' member I had no idea things were running down. I feel at a bit of a loss as I had lots of ideas buzzing around for our Gothic theme.  I'm going to try to follow them through. I've lost my motivation at the moment. I hope that eventually I can find another textile group to get involved in as there is nothing like working with like-minded people.

First here is a 'Gothic sampler' quilt I made using lots of the experimental bits of fabric I accumulated trying out techniques and patterns. it is approximately 16x20 inches.  I used a method as described by Jane LaFazio in her blog JaneVille. It was very straightforward and a good way to use up lots of bits. I may do another one.

Here is a collage of my latest Gothic sketchbook pages.

This is another experiment - this time in stitch only. Following on my interest in the work of Beany and Littlejohn and revisiting the work of Julia Caprara. It was inspired by a page in my sketchbook based on a photograph taken in the garden.

It is worked in layers of cretan stitch.  I now need to decide where to add the  pink highlights. it measures about 8x11 inches.

Meanwhile we are very happy to have had regular visits from a pair of hedgehogs..  We haven't seen any in the garden for years. I've been taking a spot of cat food out every evening to encourage them, but not too much as we have a copious supply of slugs and snails. Mungo has taken to being a night cat since our garden has been taken over by a ferocious blackbird - nicknamed 'Cocky' by me.  Cocky is extremely territorial and started off chasing off all blackbird rivals from his patch. Now he has a family in the shrubbery he is picking on the cat who only has to step into the garden to incur Cocky's wrath. At first Mungo just took to skulking in the shadows, but Cocky soon got to spot him, so Mungo just sat in the conservatory and looked out.  However he was too close for Cocky's liking, and he charged at the open door, 'pinking' at full volume causing the cat to mew and run for cover.  We are very glad the blackbirds' family appears to be safe, but the cat may need to go for therapy!

Have a good week, and I try to catch up soon

Monday, 4 May 2015

March to May

Life is moving on here. Mr T will soon be finished with visits from District Nurses and my role as care-giver is moving back to support-supplier.  Meanwhile I fill my days with creative activities - I don't get out much. Once a month with the Embroiderers' Guild and again with my textile group - Spectrum are a life-line, as well as Nutty Knitters at Maxine's  when it doesn't clash with other dates. Everything seems to happen on a Wednesday. 
This is what I've been doing. The photographs are in the order I took them. As you can see, I enjoy working on more than one thing at a time.

I planned a little dandelion triptych which I started by painting on to pelmet weight Vilene.
I then filled it in with lots of machine embroidery. Colouring in with the sewing machine.

Then I spent my 'birthday money' on a set of printing blocks from Colouricious.
I love them and have done some experimental printing.

I also bought this book by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn as I wanted to add a bit more to my embroidery repartee.
A couple of days after the book arrived, Stitch Retreats announce a weekend with Jan and Jean at Wyboston Lakes next March!!! I have booked myself a place, what an opportunity!!

I've stitched a sampler following their idea of combining hand and machine embroidery.

Mungo is celebrating his year with us by finding novel places to sleep

Back to the triptych and I'm making the cover by sticking down Expanda Print pieces onto more pelmet Vilene, and then stitching it down...

Switch to another embroidery, this time basing the colours on one of my photographs of the stain glass windows at St Albans Cathedral'

My cover gets a couple of coats of gesso then lots acrylic to build up an antique patina.

The hand embroidery is complete...

… and the whole lot is then blended together.

The components for the triptych are read for assembly, but I will live with it a bit deciding if I will add anymore embellishments.

All of this activity meant my workspace was overwhelmed, so a systematic tidy-up was initiated...

only to be interrupted by a spangly spillage!

And finally I managed to put the facing on my little quilt
I think this is finally finished, although I may stitch on some beads...

So that is some of what I've been up to, 
thanks for keeping up. I hope I'll have a few more things to show you next time.