Life in Lockdown

I am lucky, very lucky. My workroom, where I make my textile art and plan my workshops, is in my house. As with most textile artists, I have a ‘stash’ of materials that probably counts as dangerous hoarding in non- makers eyes 🙂

When is enough fabric too much?!

My kids are creative and independent enough to keep busy, plus the Circus school they attended back in ‘Real’ life (I know, right!) has switched classes online so they are having daily fixes of Circus activity AND seeing their circus friends on screen which really helps with their (and my) health and well being! And my CP has occasional days at out at work (he’s a teacher) but otherwise is doing the cooking, reading and online courses.

So my creative work continues, the only (big) difference is that there are no paid workshops going on in the real world at the moment and government aid for the self employed seems a little slow to arrive. However, some of my regular hosts are honouring payments for workshops that should have been held now, with the promise that we will be able to run them later. Plus, some events I was booked into are going online too – so I am becoming quite the twenty first century artist!

Whitley Bay Carnival is hosting an online Art Market – come along and join us!

The carnival art market has an upper price limit of £200, so I am making some new, small pieces especially for this event. I have been taking inspiration from my daily dog walks.

Thank you Bobby dog for enabling me to notice daily changes in plantlife in and around our local park. Bobby is not my dog, I am walking him for a friend who is isolating. We go to the local park almost every morning. It has been wonderful to notice the different plants flowering in turn, the trees blossoming and then moving onto producing fruit. All in a park that was once a brickworks.

The park is providing more inspiration for my urban wildflower pieces and I am collecting rusty items from the pavements as we meander along the quiet streets.

Playing around with compositions

I love the bright colour and tenacious quality of ragwort. Apparently it arrived in Britain in the 17th century from Sicily. It was grown in the Oxford Botanic garden but escaped and by the 18th century was growing freely on the walls of Oxford colleges. Then as the railways were introduced it naturalised on the clinker beds at the side of the rails and spread along the tracks around the country!

Ivy leaved toadflax is another Italian immigrant growing in this country since the 17th century – this one escaped from the Chelsea Botanic garden, it loves to grow on walls and in nooks and crannies. Richard Mabey, author of Weeds, talks of this tenacious little plant arriving from Italy via seeds packed in with marble statues being imported, once again, to Oxford. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9522524-weeds

Stitched on soluble fabric

John Ruskin loved it having spotted it growing on the steps of a Venetian church and then seeing it in a painting inside the church! In Italy it is called erba della Madonna, here it is sometimes known as Mother of Thousands or Travelling Sailor. I like the way such a tiny plant is so enduring and so colourful, with those egglike centres, lilac petals and red tipped leaves.

When we get into the park – this sometimes takes a while depending on how energetic Bobby is feeling – the wildflowers are everywhere and ever changing. Back in March we started with wood anenomes and dandelions at ground level, trees starting to regreen and the blackthorn coating itself in bright white, lacey blossom.

April brought blue – bluebells and forget-me-nots in shelted shady spots, then purple as honesty shot up underneath the froth of cherry blossom. By the reed filled pond, king cups glinted golden in the spring sunshine.

So my sketchbook is getting filled with flowers and my knowledge of plants is growing stronger, Lady’s Smock is common but I didn’t know it until this springtime, such a delicate pale pink. It is blooming all over the park now and the vetch is just starting to show its more vibrant pink blooms. Catching up with the potent pink crab apple. And on the way to the park now, the lilac is looking and smelling beautiful.

Daily walks are helping with inspiration and mood, although sunny days definitely help me to feel brighter than grey – and days when I don’t watch the news or Twitter are the best of all!

Hideout in the hedgerow

Developing a piece of work is a slow process, an idea percolates, sketches are drawn and samples made – although in my case the samples often end up being included in the finished piece – not so great for the sketchbook but it does advance the making process!

Hedgerow and Hare 2020

The idea for this hare has been percolating for a long time. Ever since I stitched one for a community project, I have wanted to incorporate a creature into one of my wildflower scenes. My daily dog walks during the current Covid 19 lockdown, are proving inspirational in that I’m noticing daily changes in the wildflowers, bushes and trees in the little local park – though I don’t think my lovely canine companion is going to appear in stitch!

Bobby looking for treats!

He usually gets a treat when I stop to take a photograph, its the best way to keep him still for long enough to take a good shot!

This partial lockdown does mean that I’m not getting to see my beloved wild flower border, though it’s just a mile away from home but seeing wood anenomes, honesty, marsh marigolds, forget me nots and yarrow coming into bloom is lovely. And the number of birds I can see and hear is wonderful.

Anyway, I started with a sketch of this hare in the hedgerow and he has been growing daily over the last few weeks. Collaged from hand dyed fabrics onto pelet vilene and then stitched with free motion embroidery

Now he has been cut free from his background and is ready to fit into the hedgerow, I ve added a base layer of greens to a sheer chiffon ground – recycled fabric already printed with some leafy images.

Starting to build up a grassy hide away…

I positioned the hare and used a contrast thread to mark his outline so that I could matched the stitched grasses to those in my initial drawing.

Now I’m starting to add in the wild flowers, the Lady’s Bedstraw has been stitched on soluble fabric, the knapweed and clover have been stitched onto more hand dyed fabric and then cut away from the base. The tricky bit is to decide when to stitch the wire hoop into the background fabric – I’m using an embroidery hoop whilst I stitch but it is not quite as big as the wire one, I’m just concerned that if I stitch it to the wire then it will be harder to machine stitch if I decide to add more detail – patience required at this stage!

Getting back to my daily dog walk – I started to stitch the red clover yesterday and this morning, saw some growing in the park – it’s as if I have conjured it up – or did my subconscious draw it to my mind on a previous walk?

Community Art in Isolation

A project from some time ago that I thought people might like to try at home – all you need is a cardboard box and a kebab stick!

Watch the Birdie!

Cut out the cardboard to make a bird or animal of your choice- just make sure that the corrugations in the card run vertically up the body of your creature as this makes it easier to insert the kebab stick later! You can paint your animal – we used acrylics and poster paints- or what about collage with old magazines or wrapping paper?

This shows the stick in the corrugated ‘tube’ through the pigeon

If you let one side dry then turn over and paint the other you can stand your creatures up in the window to entertain you and passers by 😊. The birds are fixed into toy blocks but you could stand them in a jar or vase, weighted with glass pebbles, or use some of that stockpiled flour to make a salt dough base!

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Pompom Chickens

When I’m not working from home, I work in hospital arts and run workshops all over the place, including for the lovely team at Shipley Art Gallery

I was supposed to be doing a Beautiful Birds workshop there this Friday but that’s not going ahead now. So I thought I’d share my plan for a pompom chicken with you here – something to do if you’ve got some knitting yarn to spare!

I like to use Clover’s pompom makers but you could go ‘Old School’ and use cardoard rings! (My first ever pompom make was ‘Posy Flump’ remember ‘The Flumps’ from kids TV?!) So, are you ready ? Here we go!

You Will Need

6.5 mm pompom maker . Red yarn for face details – 10 g. Body colour yarn – 30 g 

Red felt for cheeks and crown. Orange felt for beak. 2 x orange beads for eyes

1 x pipe cleaner for legs. Scissors. Glue

1. Wrap half the pompom maker with the body colour. The yarn needs to fill the semicircle, try to avoid catching the flat bits of the maker in the yarn. Keep wrapping til this half of the maker is full.

2. To make the head, follow the diagram. at one ned of the next half of the pompom maker, wrap red yarn about 20 times around to make a strtipe about 1.5cm wide. Cut the red yarn and continue wrapping with the body colour. Add about 4 layers across the whole semicircle. Then, just just under half way act=ross from the first red stripe, add another about 1cm wide, 20 wraps of the yarn. Cut the red again and continue to fill this side with the body colour.

3. Fold in the pompom maker so it forms a circle and then cut around your pompom with sharp,pointed scissors. Take a length of the body colour yarn and wrap it twice around the pompom pulling it tightly to make your pompom secure. Tie off with a double knot and release your pompom from the maker.

4. Now you need to sculpt your pompom into a chicken shape. Using those nice sharp scissors (!) first trim a couple of millimetres from all round the pompom, this will make it look denser and thicker.

5. Now shape the wings using diagram A as a guide, trim another 5mm all around the pompom except at the horizontal lines. this should give you a line of longer tufts, or ‘wings’ on either side of the body.

6. Next, turn your chicken sideways and trim from the tail to the head in a curving line see diagram B! Then trim the fron so it is a little flatter – try not to cut the red yarn so it sticks out a little bit to form part of the chicken’s wattle.

7. Keep turning and trimming your chicken until you are happy with it’s shape – go steady! Cut too far and your pompom may COLLAPSE!!

8. Cut the wattles comb and beak from felt, or card if you dont have felt to hand, and fix these to your chicken with a dab of glue. Push apart the tufts where you want them to go, add the glue and then push in the felt shape. Stick the beads onto the red eye patches.

9. Make the legs and feet from a length of pipe cleaner. Cut 2 x 10cm lengths, the first 3 cm are going to be the leg. Concertina fold the rest 6 times to make 3 toes, fold the leg up at a right angle to the toes add a blob of glue to the top of the leg and stick firmly into the under carriage of your chicken!

Cock a Doodle Dooooo!

Hope you had fun making that – remember if at first you don’t succeed…..I have made a dozen of these now and the first ones were NOT pretty! Post a picture of your chicken in the comments !

Home Schooling

This post below was made by a primary school principal on a fb group – my friend, a teacher shared it, our friends found it helpful, so I’m putting it here to help more friends, parents, teachers…

Covid Distance Learning Q&A

**Usual disclaimer, I’m a school principal but I speak only for myself. Others may have different ideas**

I’m seeing a lot of threads online with the same general theme, so I wanted to just given a schools perspective on it all and answer some FAQs. Also happy to answer any questions people have that I can answer.

Lots of people feeling stressed, overwhelmed and under pressure by the work being sent home for kids. I hope this can help with that somewhat.

Few points to note first :

1) This is not homeschooling. This is an unprecedented emergency situation impacting the whole world. Let’s keep perspective. Homeschooling is a choice, where you considered, you plan for it and you are your child’s school teacher in whatever form you choose . This is at best distance learning. In reality, it’s everyone trying to separate their bums from their elbows because none of us know what we’re doing and what’s right and wrong here.

2) You are, and always have been, your child’s primary educator. If you decide that your child isn’t going to engage with anything sent home and is going to spend the entire period playing in the dirt, or baking, or watching TV, that is your choice. That is your right. It is clear in the constitution. There is nothing to stress or feel guilty about.

3) Schools don’t know what they’re doing either. They got no notice, no prep time and we’re told ‘continue to plan lessons as normal and just send them home’ as if that is in any way possible. If it were, we’d all be out of a job very quickly. I won’t rant about my thoughts on the Dept on this, but suffice it to say your school is winging it.

4) It is absolutely not possible to facilitate distance learning with a primary aged child and work from home at the same time. The very idea is nonsense. If you’re trying to do that, stop now. You can certainly have activities where your child learns, but your focus is your job, and survival. Again, unprecedented. Stop trying to be superheroes.

So, a few FAQs:

– My school has sent home lots of physical work. Pages and pages, hours and hours. How am I supposed to get through it all?!

You’re not, don’t try. Your child’s teacher spent a couple of hours in utter panic gathering things to send home so they could say they did their best and there weren’t a lot if complaints that enough didn’t go home. It’s not a competition, or a race, it’s unlikely the teacher will even manage to look at it all.

– My school keeps sending home links and emails with more work. How do I make it stop. Ahhhhhh

See above. These are suggestions and ideas because the school is worried itl be said they’re not offering enough. Use them if they suit you, don’t if they don’t. If you’re getting stressed, stop opening the emails. No one will know!

– X in my child’s class has everything done and we’ve barely started. Will they fall behind?

Even if everything were equal in terms of support and time and number of kids etc (which its not) kids learn at different rates. In the class there’s a wide range of levels in all subjects, there’s different paces and there are many kids working on differentiated level of work. It’s almost impossible for teachers do differentiate at the moment, so you have to do it. By expectation and by time.

Your child will not fall behind. This is all revision and reminder work. If kids could learn new concepts without specific teaching we wouldn’t need teachers. They will cover all of this again, multiple times.

– I’m not doing any work with my kids. All their doing is Lego, cooking and playing outside.

All of this is learning. Very valuable learning. Give yourself and them a break.

– How can I get three different lots of work done with 3 different kids of different ages?

You can’t, stop trying. If they’re old enough, try to get them to do little bits independently. Otherwise try to do something they can all engage with, reading a story together, some free writing, baking etc.

– So what’s the bare minimum you’d expect?

For me, survival mode. I won’t pretend that may be true of all teachers, but you know what if they can’t have perspective in a time like this then I wouldn’t overly worry about their opinion anyway.

My ideal for my kids in our school?
– A bit of reading every day (independent or to them or via audiobook etc)
– some free writing now and then. If they’ll keep a diary or something, great. If not, would they draw a comic?
– Practical hands on maths. Be that via cooking, cleaning, outside or some maths games physical or digital. 
– Some fine motor work. Lego, cutting, playdough, tidying up small toys.
– Physical exercise everyday
– Some art/music where possible through the week. Doesn’t need to be guided.
-Stretch goal, if old enough getting them to independently work on a project is great for keeping brains ticking over. Get them researching in a book or online and putting together something to present to you or family.
– If younger, lots of imaginative free play, the more independent the better.

You are doing enough. You are loving your kids and supporting them through a difficult time. Look after yourself. Minimising stress is absolutely vital in a time like this for mental health. Don’t let this be something that stresses you. Only you can control that by accepting it is in your circle of control, you are the primary educator and this is all your call.

Happy to answer any questions if you have any. 

*Apologies, this post is much longer than anticipated! *

Working from home …

Well, I do that anyway! so not much change there! I did do this at the weekend…

Civil Partners…after 31 years !

But after 31 years thats only a little change too!

I’m trying to keep up a work routine, although that little inner critic voice is saying “Why??? Everything is cancelled or postponed!” So, I’m shouting back – “Because being creative is good for your wellbeing you Numpty! And we have to believe that shows and exhibitions will return at some point – don’t we?”

So here’s this morning’s progress on my hare in the wild flowers. It took me a little while to identify all the flowers I was including but there’s yarrow, lady’s bedstraw and greater knapweed. I think there will be some low growing flowers and some grasses too. I like the idea of Yorkshire Fog- that’s Holcus Ianatus – it sounds like an incantation doesn’t it!

So this one will start to get appliquéd and stitched in the next couple of days.

Here is the second piece I finished recently, again it’s 40 x 40cm, unframed as yet. It shows part of a walk we took last Summer, along the Glen Rosa valley on the Isle of Arran. Looking at it, I know where I’d like to be today – but the sun is shining outside and I have some seeds to plant in my little garden later and Glen Rosa will still be there when we all get through this so, chins up everyone – get creative and take care of yourselves 😉

Following the water, Glen Rosa, Isle of Arran 2020

Stitching my way through

March is definitely turning into a month with lots of extra studio time! I’ve been trying to finish some work that’s been hanging around my ‘to do’ list for a little while. Here’s a detail of an embroidery ‘repair I’m doing for a friend . These poppies are going to cover a little tear in her favourite coat, I’ll get them stitched on securely and then she can have the coat back – although given the current situation maybe she’ll get it in time for next Autumn!

The flowers were stitched onto some silk with freemotiom embroidery, I worked the outline through a tissue paper tracing first, then ‘painted’ in the detail adding a few hand embroidered french knots. I’m going to fix them to the coat with some fabric glue and then hand stitch to secure around the edge. (Yes, I did test the glue and fabrics first to make sure theres no leak through or other damage!)

I got as far as getting my two most recent pieces stretched and scanned ready for printing cards and making embellished giclees, but I didn’t get them to the framers for their frames and now I’m not sure if I’ll be able to for a while but here is a picture of the piece inspired by the Pembrokeshire coast – I went there last Summer, the wild flowers on the cliff path were so beautiful and the sea really was that ridiculous blue.

Pembroke Cliff Path 40 x 40 cm unframed 2020

I’m still developing my Urban Efflorescence pieces and will share images of the piece I’m doing for the http://fusiontextileartists.com/donna-cheshire-textile-artist/ exhibition. The next few in the series will feature wildlife as well as wild flowers; last year I stitched a hare for the community project I did with the wonderful WhichCraft group in Northumberland and I’ve been wanting to incorporate animals in my own work ever since! As I said at the start – now’s the time! https://donnacheshiretextiles.com/2018/05/01/south-charlton/

That’s all for now as I’m off to do something quite important at the Civic Centre later on today – I’ll let you in on the secret later – but for now I’m just very grateful that it can go ahead – if on a slightly smaller scale than we originally planned !

Hoping everyone is keeping happy and creative out there!

Donna x

Wild flowers and strange times

It’s been a day of getting on with things – workshops to prepare and exhibition dates looming – but all with the threat of postponement or cancellation as the Corvid19 virus swirls around the globe.

I read a very lovely article by someone who has to stay home most of the time for health reasons, advisng on good practice for people new to self isolation or working from home. My big tip after a stressful weekend is to limit news and social media viewing – so I can get on with making rather than fretting! ( Bimblings by Josie George if you’re interested)

So today I have got all ready for a workshop with 60 children tomorrow (I know- right!) We’re going to be silk painting lovely, colourful scenes that the children have designed. So that’s 60 frames filled with silk, 30 pipettes filled with gutta, silk paints packed, palettes and fine brushes packed, samples made and some of my work packed because I’m also going to do a short presentation to the whole school about my work as an artist – they’re on a two week Arts focus – lovely to see!

This afternoon I’ve been hand stitching different elements of my next (Extended) Urban Efflorescence piece – this is one of the words I’m including

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and of course it took me right back to thinking about the crazy ongoing situation where people maybe aren’t thinking about sharing enough as they stockpile toilet paper and bread flour! Wouldn’t it be lovely if we came out of this crazy period as expert bakers! I like the idea of the nation spending their time in self isolation learning the magic of sour dough and plaited loaves! My street has set up a Whatsapp group so we can help each other out if necessary – I’m sure baking tips will soon be flying about but today’s chat was mainly about whether you cn buy a guillotine in Lidl and who in the street might be up for knitting by said guillotine! Needless to say – I’ve had to mute the conversation so I can get on with some work!

Here’s another word that seems relevant  – trying to be content with the shrinking focus of things, I have lots of books to read, sketchbooks to fill and threads to use so that will keep me content!

IMG_1205

We’ve had to postpone a pretty big event we’d planned for the weekend so we’re trying to remain content with the knowledge that it is just a postponement and not a cancellation – at least I’ve got more time to finish the bunting I’ve been making!

img_1206-e1584375725341.jpg

The work I do in hospitals is being postponed too, understandably hospitals are trying to reduce footfall where possible. So, I’m going to post some project ideas on the Facebook page for the organisation I work for – why don’t you bob over and take a look? Its @RoomforYouArtsinHealth you never know, there might be something you’d like to share or have a go at making to keep you contented as we go through this strange time 🙂

 

Exhibition Time again

2020 Exhibitor Badge - JPEG

I’m very pleased and excited to say that I will be exhibiting my textile artwork at Art in The Pen in Thirsk this July! I’ve nearly finished the second in a series of four new appliqués for this and have lots more work to do – obviously! (Already been to the framer’s this afternoon!) I’ll update this post with images and details of other events I’ll be exhibiting at this year -ASAP! Scurries back to sewing machine and sketchbooks……