Monday, 31 January 2011

Just 'do' ...

I have tried to be more active this month - not a New Year resolution as such, but when you reach a certain age you realize how important your physical well-being is and I have never been a lover of exercise.  I have some physio exercises for my back and I am getting custom made orthotics for my fallen arches, so I wonder where February will see me!  Marvin, the cat, is doing well after my panic on his diagnosis of diabetes.  He drinks a couple of pints of water a day, but he has a good appetite and doesn't appear to have lost any more weight. 
Thank you to all who ask after him.

My February pages are rather simple at the moment.  Wax resist plus washes of red and yellow for the background and green squares with a bit of white gesso stencilled on.  I was influenced by a bit of 50's fabric for the colour scheme.  I am sure the pages will  liven up by the end of the month. I do hope that those of you who have joined in are enjoying the challenge.  Kate has organized a link on her blog - I have yet to suss that one out.

For all of you who kindly comment on my journal pages, here is another one.  I have been having a paisley moment or two, I find this sort of thing quite mindless and when I am not feeling inspired to be creative I can just start with a glorified doodle.  I may add to it over several days. The internet is a wonderful font of fact, and as I have a mind like a sieve, writing down what I find out is a must.  I just sarted by writing in some paisley shapes and the patterns grew.  You may also notice from the top of the  page that I have joined the Artist Network Bedfordshire. My friend has invited me to join her in the open studio event in June so we have had to do some planning - but more about that much nearer the time.

Here is a page from my little watercolour moleskine.  I did think I would try and draw something from my garden in it every month, but I started it about 18 months ago and it has some big gaps. Perhaps I will do better this year.  Here I drew winter flowering heather, which is a bit tardy this year as it often starts to open before the new year and Christmas box which has the most heavenly sweet scent, if somewhat insignificant flowers.  I have managed to cut this back hard every summer and keep it small enough to stay by my back door. If you long some winter perfume I hightly recommend it.
Well that is January wrapped up, spring is really waiting in the wings. The sun has shone today, the birds singing and it is five o'clock and the sky is still pink! That's progress

Friday, 28 January 2011

Home again

I've had a great break on the Isle of Wight.  My father has a retirement flat in West Cowes and is a sprightly 88. I stay with him as he has a spare room, whereas my sister's bungalow is filled with a couple of teenage nephews! She lives a mile or so along the coast at Gurnard. I spent Wednesday at my sisters and I am sure you can guess we spent most  all of the day talking. We did manage to walk down to the sea front and have short walk on the beach, it was rather chilly. Here's my sister, Janet.

It was wonderful to fill my lungs with sea air and hear the waves breaking on the beach. The island faces the mainland across the Solent so crashing breakers are not so likely on this sheltered shore, but for those of you who miss the sea too, here's a watery shot...

... and a view along the beach in the other direction.

The only good thing to be said was the cloud covered sky did have a bit of variation in tones of grey rather than the uniform milky grey that we have been experiencing lately.

Janet showed me a few copies of her magazine "Selvedge" which is beautiful publication for anyone interested in textiles, art and design,  but what she wanted to share with me was an article about an exhibition at The Foundling Museum called Threads of Feeling.  I will give you a brief outline of the story behind the exhibition, but you should really look at the web sites.   
In 1739 the Foundling Hospital was founded by the philanthropic Thomas Coram to care for abandoned babies.  When mothers brought their babies to the hospital a meticulous register was kept of each child taken in.  However no record of the mothers' names was kept, so to identify the child in the unlikely event of the mother returning to reclaim her child, a token was taken from the mother.  This was  often a piece of fabric cut from the child's or the mother.s clothing. These registers have been meticulously preserved and now form an exhibition at the museum.  The Thomas Coram Foundation is still a leading children's charity.

Flowered all over with cards’. Cotton or linen printed with a playing card pattern © Coram

Not only are these tokens a heart rending record of the tragic separation of mothers and their babies they also form the most extensive collection of examples of 18th century fabrics. Do follow the links, but have a few tissues on hand.  The exhibition is open until March, so may be I will get it together to visit.

Meanwhile back at the Isle of Wight, the weather changed and the cloud broke up Wednesday evening and I was able to get this shot from Janet's front garden  before the light went - then it was really chilly.

Back home to Mr T and Marvin I was pleased to find one of my 'Scribble Boxes' had sold.   
Have a great weekend,

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Sunday, 23 January 2011


Just a short post today - where does the time go?

First, here is a page from my journal recording how I made my 'Scribble Boxes' which are now on sale in my Etsy shop.     Here is another one I have made, along with the ones you have already seen, forgive me for blatant advertising.

Something in the air

Although we are still in the middle of winter, somehow we have turned the corner towards spring, the bulbs I planted in the autumn are showing through and the birds are tuning up their songs

My winter flowering iris is always a cheerful sight.
(iris unguicularis)

and Marvin is doing fine ... he is eating well and drinking a lot, which of course a symptom of his diabetes, but otherwise is showing no symptoms.  I am hoping to go to visit my family on the Isle of Wight for a couple of days this week, leaving Marv in charge of Mr T, fingers crossed for some fine weather.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tools of the trade

I was torn between doing some photography and sewing yesterday, so decided to combine the two. I slapped the macro lens on the camera and opened up the tripod.  When the light levels are very low (it was raining all day),  the tripod and the remote control shutter release are essential if you want sharp pictures.
I used manual focus as the depth of field is so shallow -  a centimetre or there abouts - so it is vital that you manually focus on the spot you want, especially when it is a needle.  My eyes are not brilliant and I have a miriad of 'floaters' but a bit of concentration got the results I wanted. Because the pictures are a high resolution I was able to crop them closely around the area I wanted. 'Picasa' now lets you edit your pictures using 'Picnik' which enabled me to add the drop shadow, all very simply done.

'Rotary Cutter'


'Topstitch Needle'

'Needle and thread'

I do hope your are enjoying some sunshine as I am here. Chilly, but bright, the best January can get.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Scribble, scribble, scribble

Firstly, before I do anything else I must say that this project was totally inspired by Emma at A little Bit of Everything.  She describes making collages with crayon, ink and paper.  Wax crayons used to be one of my favourite media when I was teaching as I could plan at least half a dozen art lessons in which the main media was the good old wax crayon, including wax resist, paper/crayon batik, mirror pictures and transfers and before 'elth and safety made planning such a chore, melting wax. So reading Emma's post got the old juices flowing.
 The first thing was to gather material, paper wax crayons, oil pastels and water soluble neocolour sticks and to cover my paper with areas of colour as outlined by Emma, in linear, curved and blocks. I found an old gold crayon and used some Treasure gold as well.  Then keeping within my limited palette  washed over the top with Brusho inks. Of course the soluble crayons ran into the ink creating some lovely blends. I dried it off and then worked into it a couple of times more.  Now my brain was really on overdrive and as I read Emma's post I was reminded of the paper quilting I had experimented with so I switched inspirations!  Firstly I chopped up the sheet and reassembled it using wide zig-zag stitch, mixing up the pattern. I then bonded it to  piece of felt and added lots of stitching and even couched on some ribbon and gold mesh.

This pink and yellow one is constructed from two sheets of paper (my scan has made the gold areas  look blue), so I have two similar pieces to this. By the way I have tried this with cartridge paper and copy paper so far and the copy paper gives better results as it becomes much more flexible whereas the cartridge paper is inclined to tear and crack. So what to do with my pieces? I decided to turn them into boxes. Here are the first two I made...
I call them my Scribble Boxes

 This is a bit wayward, but are rigid enough to stand up and act as a pencil pot.
It is cartridge paper, lined with felt.

 This one is much softer, I should have stiffened it, but it still works well
 It is standard copy paper and again is lined with felt.

Finally I have also created four little 5"x7" canvases of my Summer's Ghosts photographs

I am hoping to put all of these in my Etsy shop soon. I want to make a couple more boxes first. What do you think?

I have had a very busy week including a visit to Art Van Go in Knebworth which I can drive to in less than half an hour.  It is a wonderful source of materials (mail order too) as well as a venue for workshops and gallery space. When I went there was a very colourful exhibition of Ruth Isset's work Awash with Colour. As Emma had also mentioned Ruth's work and one of her books (which is out of print), everything was rather serendipidous.
I have also joined the Artist Network Bedfordshire and my friend Sally and I are planning to take part in the open studio month in June so I need to gather together some showable and saleable work - and six months can go SO fast! More info on that nearer the time.
It has taken me hours to get this post together when I could have been stitching, but sometimes other things are important too.
I do hope you are enjoying a creative weekend and have a great week, see you soon.
(PS this could do with a bit of editing - please excuse typos and bad grammar - no time ,to time)

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Saturday this and that

My orchids are in bloom again - they are the one house plant I have had consistent success with, I am not very good with regular care, but the orchids like the kitchen windowsill and having them by the sink means I see them every day.  The photograph is from three years ago and was a very popular shot on flickr - it still pops up occasionally as somebody's favourite. This year they were in bloom by Christmas, a few weeks earlier than usual.

Carrying on the plant theme, I spotted this in the tree just outside our neighbours.

I couldn't believe my eyes at first to see mistletoe growing in the street  in a fairly young mountain ash. I suppose a bird left a deposit of the mistletoe seeds when coming to feed on the rowan berries. This  even has some berries on it which I spotted thanks to my zoom lens. Just as I popped out with my camera the whole world seemed to walk past  so I struck up one or two conversations to explain my apparent 'madness' at photographing an otherwise most unremarkable tree.
I have finished stitching my 'umbellifer' panels and now need to turn them into a box.
As I have finished the 'Honesty' book I am thinking that one featuring this enormous plant family would make a good subject too.

To conclude here is another Marvin sketch.

 and  a photograph of his predecessor Tessa, a dainty, blue-eyed Siamese cross, about as different from Marvin as you could get. When we lost her to old age I never thought another could replace her, but guess what?  Oh, us cat lovers, what fickle creatures we are!
Hope your weekend is bright and have a good week.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Honesty - one stitch at a time

Firstly I would like to say a very heart felt 'Thank You' for all your kind support in my previous post. I do feel much better and reassured that we have made the right decision concerning our cat, Marvin's care. But life goes on.

"Inspiration is for amateurs, I just get to work"  Chuck Close

"...and I slowly build these paintings, construct them, in the way someone might crochet or knit.
If you believe in the process and you knit one, purl two long enough, eventually you get a sweater."

I found the above quotation from Chuck Close very empowering as I am one who used to think that to be an 'artist' one had to sit around and wait for inspiration to hit like a bolt of lightning. Whereas I have learned that it is only by 'doing' that inspiration comes. Sometimes just through playing around and experimenting without  thought to outcome, sometimes by looking at others' work.  I also liked the idea that his work is incremental and if he sticks to his process he will end up with his painting.
I have, at last, finished my book based on an Honesty Seed Head - one stitch at a time, one process at a time.

Click on any of the pictures for close-up details

Now I intend to fill the book, one page at a time. I have been collecting information about the Honesty plant and quotations involving the word honesty, so this time I think I will fill the book before offering it for sale,  that way the whole thing is a piece of my art work. 
 I did sell my Leaf book with blank pages for someone else to fill - what do you think?

Here is a brief intro into Chuck Close

Have a good week - and never give up!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Who knows what the year will bring?

Here is my calendar page for January. As you can see I have featured Marvin, my ginger and white cat.

The reason I didn't post this before was I wanted to tell you about Marv. He has been poorly for sometime with an inflammatory bowel disease, which we have got under control with steroids and hypoallergenic cat food. But when he went for a check-up the week before Christmas the vet was concerned about his weight loss. He was a very large cat, weighing well over a stone (14lbs) and I had to buy an extra large cat container to transport him! So I just thought he was looking leaner and healthier under his new food regime. However a blood test confirmed the vets fears that he has diabetes. So we were faced with a horrible dilemma - do we start to treat it, or let nature take its course?
Treatment for cats with diabetes is exactly the same as for humans, twice daily blood tests and insulin injections. Committing yourself to such a regime is not to be taken lightly, so we took a couple of days to make a decision and talk about it with friends and family who know our situation and the cat's personality. we took the sad decision to let nature take its course as I felt I could not commit myself to pinning the cat down four times a day, twice to take blood samples and twice to inject insulin.  My husband would find it difficult to help especially as he is in need of some care himself having had a stroke some while ago as well as not being physically robust. Also Marvin was named after the paranoid android in 'Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy' as he is of a highly paranoid nature. I have given up trying to get a collar on him, and treating him with a spot flea treatment is a nightmare.  He is also inclined to ''wet his pants' when he thinks he is going in the cat basket - and then runs whenever he sees me for the next couple of days! I cannot imagine having to go through the routine needed to treat him. We would all be nervous wrecks. Also I asked myself, what would happen if we wanted to go away, who would we find to go through this for us?  So I am writing all of this, because I feel so bad, Every time I look at poor ole Marv I have a little lump in my throat, and I want you to understand that I am not being unkind - am I? At the moment he is fine ( see the photo below)
Marvin expresses his opinion of New Year's TV
His coat is a bit scruffy as he has bad teeth and dribbles - (the vet doesn't want to treat them and they aren't effecting his eating). The vet couldn't predict how long it would be before his quality of life is affected, but at the moment you wouldn't know anything was wrong, I've had enough cats over the years to know you can tell when that moment has come.  So please excuse me my maudlin over my pet. I know he will continue to pop up in my posts frequently. Reading this thorough - only a pet lover could imagine why anyone keeps such a cat in the first place!
A page from my Marvin sketchbook when we first got him
Marvin came from the marvelous local Animals at Risk Shelter(no web site), which has accommodation for all sorts of unhousable cats as well finding cats' homes. The couple who run it are devoted, and when we visited there were lots of resident cats sunning themselves in an immaculate garden with not the tiniest 'whiff' of cat. The cats waiting for rehousing were in a very homely, light and airy out house, and 'Rusty' as he had been called just rolled over at Mr T's feet for his belly to be tickled, so that was that!
He had been brought in by the security guard from a local Iceland store. We think he must have been well fed because he was rather fat, but totally paranoid at being shut in.  He goes mad if he is in a room with the door shut so goodness knows what had happened to him. Which was why we re-named him.
My nephew made us smile when my sister overheard him telling a friend that his Auntie had a cat that had been rescued from Poland!! Well Iceland...Poland what's the difference!
Thank you for sticking with me through this, I feel better for getting off my chest and I sure you will understand why we are making the most of Marv while we've got him.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

to all my friends, old and new, wishing you
 a creative and fulfilling 2011