Wednesday 30 April 2008

Lots of Art, Lots of Stitch, Too much Eating

Thanks for all the comments. The sketch book I was using here has pages that are about A4 (letter) size. I don’t work well with anything too small as I like to have plenty of room to be splodgy.

Penny - this fossil is pretty good but the one I used previously was bigger and better. That was the one that the grandson dropped - which is now several fossils. All those years and then….Toby!

A good trip to Art of the Stitch on Saturday. Traffic was light, parking was easy and we arrived at the gallery spot on opening time. I was impressed with the exhibition and, although I agree with Sue that it was very arty, I thought that this was arty in a good way. There weren’t too many installations of the dripping tap persuasion and there was lots of lovely stitching, especially hand stitching. I’m not going to say much more as the review will be in the free access part of Workshop on the Web in June and will have lots of photos. Here are a couple of pics to be going on with.

This is Durer Stitching - a lovely 'take' on Durer's Hand drawing by Rosie James.

And Personal Space by Scott Ellegood. Amazing hand stitching.

On the way home we did the 'National Trust for lunch', routine (this happened a lot last year) and went to Charlecote Park. Such a lovely, sunny day and we had a good walk and ate too much. Look at this fantastic rustic door.

Plus a detail.

Must tell the wwsil about this.
I can feel a bit of an interest in all things Tudor coming on. There were some great patterns in the stonework. Don't think they were very aged but they did look like true copies of some of the interior patterns.

I went to Highcliffe Castle to pick up my work from the exhibition and found that I’d sold some more pieces. My mixed media piece had gone. I had planned to use it for the book but will happily make another one in the series. So good to sell work - there is something special about other people liking it enough to part with hard earned cash. I hadn’t even taken a proper pic so it was just as well that I put one on the blog.

Today has been a very exciting day as I have been over to the wood working son-in-law for a meeting with Michael Wicks. The guys are doing a book on hand-made wood-workers planes (not the flying kind) and Michael had to take some photos in the workshop.
Michael and I are hoping to do some books with other textile artists and it is all very exciting. More news soon. He bore off a lot of work to photograph, including my sketchbook so I shall have to work on torn out pages and stick them in when it comes back. Very into sketch book stuff at the moment. I think I may have a sketch book section for each technique in the book and talk about the materials used in the making of that as well as the resulting piece. At the moment I am using Liquid Translucent Sculpey. I used it in the Image to Stitch book for image transfer and that got me interested. I think it's a good idea to include all manner of experiments in the sketch book and write up the method. So easy to forget.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Sketch books

Margaret - you are right about the funerals. Someone was telling me recently that the funerals for their 'oldies' were turning into parties so they started having family weekends to keep up. Good idea.

Hip - we could almost have met up if we'd known who to look for. Your London trip sounded great and I liked your gelatin printed cards. I've not tried that, so must have a go sometime.

I have heard great reports of the meeting Chrissy. Sounds like a great day and you are in a good area to attract a lot of textile artists. I'm sure it will go from strength to strength.

I've more or less finished with the mags now so -ta da!- on to the next book. I decided not to do the book diary blog, as I'm not sure I would keep it up so here is the birth of the mixed media book - conceptional art. I'm going to include a lot of sketch book work and then build it up to finished pieces using the materials that I want to include. Haven't had a good messy sketchy day for ages. This is some more of the fossil work using drawings with charcoal and inky-bleachy bits set in. The opposite page is the beginning of a chunky textured design and shows some Model Magic pressed onto fossils and then set in a bed of Paper Perfect, knifed on.

It will take ages to dry and then I shall paint it and probably wax it as well.

I've also been working with a design based on Egyptian jewellery which is turning into a bodice. I didn't really want it to but it was quite determined. Again lots of ink and bleach with cut out shapes and the opposite page is a sample of Val's using beads and buttonholes. I have lots of her bits and would like to use them in the book. More on this next week. I am off to see Art of the Stitch on Saturday and hope to show some photos next week.

Monday 21 April 2008

Weekend of Wonder

I’ve had the most wonderful weekend in London. This was the girly weekend for my cousin’s birthday. Mama Mia was fantastic and I’ve revised my view of musicals (I didn’t think I liked them as much as plays). I could have seen it all over again, especially the bit at the end where we all sang and bopped about. The birthday girl is in the middle.

Our party were hoarse afterwards but it didn’t stop us talking all night.
We then went for a cocktail and on to dinner in a very posh restaurant. It was all lovely and we laughed so much.

Cousin Sue and I shared a bedroom for the first time since we were ten years old and that was fun - lots of talking about old times. We were going on the London Eye next day but it was very misty so we walked along the South Bank having coffee, having lunch and enjoying the sights. How about this chameleon on a bicycle?

Apart from entertaining grandchildren, I very rarely do non-textile things and now realise that change is good for you, although completely shattered today. I shall be refreshed and ready for some work tomorrow.

On to the Comments;
Lynda - glad you like Kiefer, too. You should try to get to Blood on Paper and see the work - I think it would appeal.

Aussie Jo - will visit to check on the paper casting. Would love to see it.

Oi stories
I shall try going alone to the tip Gill but, knowing my luck, the tipmeister will ignore me and I’ll come home with a bad back.

Annabelle - I have bookmarked you now. I can’t imagine how anyone could mistake your work for a wheelie bin cover but perhaps you should have the image put onto a suitable material and market them. A new career.

We have to get a permit to go to our tip, Pat. Although it is only half a mile away it ‘belongs’ to a different council. We were having to drive ten miles to another tip before someone woke up to the fact that this is not very green. Now we get six vouchers a year!

I think ‘Oi Mum’ has a nicer ring than the tip man’s bellow, Megan, but perhaps you should become selectively deaf until ‘Mother Dear’ is used.

Friday 18 April 2008


Thanks for all the comments - so glad that you think the book looks OK. It’s always a bit like introducing your new baby to the world (but with the added complication that you want people to buy your baby).

Loved your reasons for having a proper book, Marjorie. People are always very apologetic if the books are messy when they ask me to sign them. But, to me, that’s the greatest compliment as it means they are well used. A cookery book in pristine condition is an unused cookery book, I reckon.

Paper casting is such fun Aussie Jo, and I love the speed of water soluble paper. I keep thinking that I have exhausted all the possibilities but, even now, I am working on some new ideas. I really like the look of defined shapes, set within a textured area, and this is what I’m experimenting with.

Chrissy - well, I fixed the timing so it would be OK for your birthday. Glad we got that one right.

I am so sorry, Hippopip, about failing in my role as London guide. Here is a pic from the Blood on Paper exhib at the V&A to make up for it. I love the idea of Paula Rego illustrating Jane Eyre. Her narrative style makes her seem such a logical choice and I would love to have held the book and turned the pages.

I was a trifle disappointed at first with this exhibition and, as I said to my friend Jane, I had to give myself a serious talking to about opening the mind to the concept of a book. This is ironic as, when I used to teach book courses, I always started by challenging the students’ ideas of what constituted a book. The second time around, I was much better although some aspects didn’t appeal. There are some wonderful books from some well known names and the ones by Anselm Kiefer, whose work I absolutely adore, were mind-boggling. I have reviewed it for WoW so lots of pics can be seen then. I’d be very interested in the views of anyone who visits it. A great bonus that it is free and a big thanks to the V&A for that. The catalogue is super - loose folios in a box - but it is £45. Ouch.

The Russia exhibition was wonderful, fantastic and superb. We had to queue for ages and we were so tired, but it was so worth it. Many of the paintings had never been outside Russia and we were told by a lady in the queue that the RA had to put up a huge bond against the chance that some would be reclaimed by the (possible) rightful owners. Lots of artists we did not know, but such a high standard and so much to admire. We both love anything cubist so we were very happy bunnies.

You may be wondering about the heading for this post. I will explain. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the world but here in the UK our rubbish is collected once a week and big, bulky stuff or garden rubbish has to be taken to the local refuse tip. These are ruled over by what we call the Tipmeister and he has very strict rules about what gets tipped where. Every time we go we get shouted at and this takes the form of a very large man with a very red face shouting ‘Oi’ very loudly. Our problem is that this now makes us laugh so much that the red-faced man gets very cross. Yesterday one, very tiny, lightweight plastic plant pot crept into our garden waste and was spotted as we tipped it out (you have to empty the bags). ‘Oi’ echoed across the tip - he must have X-ray vision - and we cracked up. I think we shall soon be banned!

Tomorrow I am off to London again on my jolly with the girls. Will dish the dirt on Monday.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Maggie's Booky-wook

Thanks so much for the award Margaret. I am going to hold off from passing it on it at the moment. When I looked at your list of recipients it contained so many that I would have chosen. I need to do some more blog searching - such hard work!

The acrylic wax won’t improve stability, Artisue, but it will make the paper surface of the vessel more permanent and also adds an interesting surface, not quite shiny but almost.

Gilby - your wax query answered above but, regarding the making of a vessel as a Workshop on the Web article, we are going right to the top here. The June issue will have a lovely big article by Lynda Monk (Purple Missus), the expert in vessel making. In fact the June issue is one of our best (and possibly biggest) ever. Even pinned Jean Littlejohn down before she dashed off to Oz. Sorry about the commercial but I’ve just finished setting it and it looks so good. Can’t wait until June.

So glad that you all enjoy the books. Funny you should say that as, when we went to the London Book Fair yesterday, my Image to Stitch book was there - looking like a proper booky and lovely with it. They had got the advance copies in and that means that the book will be here in about a month - they’ve made good progress. When I got home my copy was there so I could have an even better look. Here it is on my garden table, bless it.

Here’s a DPS. Don’t you think it was clever the way I arranged for the wind to blow and give a little glimpse of the next page.

One of my favourite spreads, below, showing work from Jane Lemon and Vivienne Brown. I am so lucky that my generous friends allow me to show their work in my books as it adds variety and introduces new ideas. I have got over the bereft feeling of not having a Val by using some of her pieces that were given to me. I also did some work from her designs. In one case, I scanned one of her samples and then used a Displacement Map on it. This was printed out and the cover image from the book was made from it. Made me feel we'd both had a hand in it. As it is a gauntlet that's quite apt.

Now it is almost here we have uploaded the related web site Have a look and tell me what you think.

Anyway, back to the trip to London.

The Book Fair was great - really busy and bustly and we talked to lots of people and learned lots. The Interweave guy (they often co-publish my books in the States) told us that they offer some of their books for download. Not quite like e-books - I think they use PDFs because of the pics. It would be a solution to the huge expense of posting overseas but I think I'd rather have a real book to have and to hold. What do you folks think?

When we left Earls Court we went to the Blood on Paper, book exhibition at the V&A and then to the Russia Exhib at the RA. We were practically crawling with exhaustion by then but it was the last week so we just had to see it. I will blog about these two exhibitions tomorrow, otherwise I will miss the post with some important stuff. Ta-ta for now.

Saturday 12 April 2008

Bumbles and Books

Carol Anne - I shall call you a marvel. I can remember the ad now. I wonder how many other people quote the 'greasy auntie' phrase without knowing the provenance. The wonders of the web, indeed, ArtiSue.

Thanks so much to Corryna for the arte y pico award. Very humbling to have awards for indulging myself in a good chat. Bumbling on might be a better description. I am looking forward to checking out your list of bloggers, Corryna.

I am having a surreptitious blog, very quietly, while Clive is doing a garage sort. We are supposed to be having a weekend off - just like normal people do. No computers - how sad is that? I find that weekends off are very boring and I can't wait until Monday. I must admit that they are restorative and so, I guess, necessary once in a while. We have licked the garden into shape and that was enjoyable and now I've read all the papers and can feel a bit of stitching coming on.

When I last blogged we were off to a Society of Authors lunch. Such a coincidence - we sat with a chap who was born in India (so was Clive), came to this country in 1947 (so did Clive) and whose father was railway rather than Raj - you guessed it, so was Clive's father. Just like Clive he had no desire to go back and, just like me, his wife was rather miffed about this!

The Society are wonderful for things like checking publishing contracts, royalty queries and the like. They also monitor the big, bad Amazon situation. Yes, I use them too, but they do knock authors' payments down to practically nothing. I think this is why self-publishing is so popular. I am certainly going to be doing another book with Michael Wicks. Not just because of the royalty issue, but because it was so liberating to be able to change the pages, the size of the pics and to add another pic suddenly. He was also so fussy about the paper and print quality.

The next book will be called Mixed Media and Stitch and I hope it will be out in December. As I started it a while back, the gestation period is similar to giving birth to a baby so I am thinking that maybe I will start another blog to chart its progress - the birth of a book. It would be more sporadic than this blog, as books get done in lulls between teaching, giving talks and getting the mags together. It could be fun but will be a fine line between making it interesting and not giving away all the secrets, as nobody would then buy the book. What do you think?

I have finished the fossily vessel. It even has a base and still stands up straight, no mean achievement. Here are a couple of shots.

I must give it a coat of acrylic wax, as a lot of it is abaca paper, and so is not very strong.

Clive is approaching. I am discovered. Now I will have to make the tea (and possibly tomorrow's breakfast) as penance.

Thursday 10 April 2008

Loads of lovely comments - many thanks, especially for all the Clive messages. He will be getting ideas above his station! Sorry, Jude, he’s great on computers but we usually have to bring in a son-in-law for the DVD.

Fiona: loved the giraffe story. Sayings like that bond a family, I think. We have a saying that is trotted out at appropriate moments - ‘It’s all greasy, Auntie’. So far back in the mists of time that none of us know where it came from.

Margaretr - the social life seems to consist of lots of eating. So rude to refuse, but I’m putting on pounds and today it is the Society of Authors lunch. More eating.

Aussie Jo The dottom sounds like a trade mark. I guess you always knew you’d got the right baby.

Helen Suzanne thanks for the "Art pico award", I am very honoured and will consider all the people who inspire me. Trouble is I have picked them before - will try to find new ones.

Glad you were missing me, Julie. I shan’t abandon you all, never fear. Par Carks is one of ours, too.

After today’s lunch I have a week before my next ‘social’ event but that’s a big one, when my cousin (who is more like a sister) is having a big birthday celebration. She is taking a group of friends and rellies to London to do a show and stay the night. Cousin Sue and I are usually the matriachs of this particular group and have been likened to Edina and Patsy in Ab Fab. Something to do with the hiding in a corner with a bottle, I fear.

I have been very noble and yesterday’s textile art was confined to stitching some lettering on the woodworking son-in-law’s apron, ready for a show he is doing at the weekend. Here's his web site for anyone interested in woodwork:

I think I’ve told you about the wonderful furniture he makes and he now has a business making planes. Apparently, hand made tools (and planes in particular) are much in demand and his are beautifully made from lovely wood. The business is going well and his planes are selling all over the world. Funny to observe him getting ready for the show - just like us for the K&S and Festival of Quilts. The font he uses was not a good one for digitised stitching, lots of narrow satin stitch and the thread kept breaking. What one does for love!

I have also managed to finish the top of my vessel. When making my Cordoba bag I found that embellishing a strip of felt inside the top made it bend smoothly inwards.

Here’s a detail showing (just about) the little pieces of stitching that were trapped inside. It gives a very smooth finish.

So I thought that I would do the same and give the vessel a smooth inward turn. Here's the top.

I cut a thin strip of felt and embellished it on the reverse of the fabric, along the top. See below.

Then it was trimmed to size and embellished some more. It was really beginning to turn the top in at this stage.

Then I did a little more embellishing on the right side to bring the colour back. I find this is amazing - like reversed rubbing out. I left it quite dark to give definition.

Finally the top was trimmed slightly to remove the woolly look.

I think this technique could be used for lots of shaping and will play some more in the week. Must go for a walk now to burn some calories before the lunch.

Monday 7 April 2008

Getting a Life

Thanks for comments. katelnorth - in our family we seem to adopt the child's silly names and forget the original. I now find it impossible to say pyjamas - they are always jabamas.

This is why I know the words to Fox on the Run, Hippopip. The long term memory is fine - it's where I put the car keys this morning that lets me down. Talking of oldies, I do love my ipod and the new(ish) car has a socket for it, so we don't need to take hundreds of CDs with us on long trips. Needless to say we keep forgetting the ipod.

I'm sorry not to have posted for ages but I am in danger of developing a social life. I don't suppose it will last long. We've had lots of meals out with friends, visits from a cousin from America and, on Saturday, Clive Grey BA had his graduation ceremony in Brighton. He looked very smart in his robes - hired for the occasion, of course. It was a lovely ceremony which ran like clockwork and managed to be serious and great fun at the same time. Well done the OU.

One very interesting aspect was the award of a special Honours degree to Wilfred Cass who has done so much for the arts in this country - sculpture in particular. He told us a little of his life story (he was an entrepreneur who specialised in turning around ailing companies). He talked about his failures, some of which were quite spectacular, which I thought very courageous. A lesson to us all to pick ourselves up and plough on, especially in these difficult times.

I have been doing a little stitching. Here is the back of the Wiretex bag, which is now a vessel.

Now I am joining it to the front and will carry on the bands of yellow couching so that it all links together.

There has also been a lot of work done on Workshop on the Web and Quiltwow. They are both coming on very well. Ken Smith has written an amazing article on machine embroidery techniques. I plan to try some of them tomorrow at my Beyond Stitch group.

On Friday I took Lauren (14) to the exhibition. Somehow this outing ended with me buying her a new pair of jeans. How did that happen? As we were setting off from her house I managed to drive over their recycling box, which now needs to be recycled. We pushed it out of the way and drove off quickly, giggling like mad. I did confess in the end though.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Wiretex and Werewolves (well, nearly)

Hi Pascale - did you have a good holiday? Wiretex is a mesh which comes in a variety of weights. It is possible to machine over it, although we were hand stitching on the course. It has horribly sharp edges which need to be taped (or you can trap the Wiretex in between layers of fabric). The layers need to be thick enough for it not to poke through and bite you. We were using felt.
It is very good for adding movement to a static piece or for making vessels. I also like it for bags as it adds stability to a floppy fabric. Here is a piece by Carolyn, made at the weekend.

And one I made for the Stitch, Dissolve, Distort book. I used Wiretex for the basic shape and then Paverpol as a hardener.

I will look out some of my 3D work which uses Wireform.
I do have Quilt Pro somewhere Annabelle, but not sure it will run on my Vista machine. Aren’t new operating systems annoying? I keep having to go back to my old laptop to run my digitising software as I haven’t had a chance to investigate what patches are available for Vista.

I’m glad you enjoyed the Highcliffe show, Lynne. I do wish my boxed pieces looked better, though. If I sell more fossils I will move the others off the wall and into the cabinet.

Today we took the three boy GCs to our local National Trust house, Kingston Lacy. We did a trail in the grounds which involved looking for all kinds of hidden features. The cannons weren’t exactly hidden but they went down well.

The Egyptian ‘oesophagus’ (according to the kids) was good and scary. Here they are being frightened by the mummy

Like all kids, they love the idea of graves, ghosts and general bloodthirstyness so the works of Grinling Gibbons left them cold but a large painting of a horse being torn to pieces by wolves was considered ‘ace’. I was a little nervous about taking them in the house - all those breakables - but they were very good. Little Toby was not feeling well and kept requesting a lie down on the four posters.
We had lunch and the inevitable, long drawn out trip to the gift shop and then drove home singing the old Manfred Mann song ‘Fox on the Run’ at the top of our voices. I had played it for them on our last trip out and Clive and I were very amused to find that they had all downloaded it on to their ipods. You can’t beat the oldies.