Category Archives: commission

My Journey – almost there!

It’s been a day of stitching – eight hours at the machine today – anyone know a good masseuse??

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New needles and metallics have arrived! Needle breakages won’t be a problem now!

All of the sea is now stitched, I’ve really enjoyed working on it, building ripples and waves into the surface to give a sense of movement to the work. I’ve got two of the three panels hanging up together in the studio whilst I work on the third – sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I think I see the waves rolling in – but maybe that’s the effects of a long day stitching!

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This section is on the final panel, the last bit of the sea – as it calms down and wends its way around the headland. I’ll add some of the metallic threads tomorrow, to show sunlight glistening on the waves.

There’s a bit more to do on the garden – makes a change to be doing greens not blues! You’ll see that I’ve been changing the direction of stitch to differentiate between surfaces – water, sand, bushes.

I was certainly very glad to get to the end of the sea wall this morning – and no more broken needles!

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Here, you can see the garden fence going in, with zigzag stitch used on the grass in front of it. Zigzag still works when doing free machine embroidery and its possible to stretch and curve the zigzag to create texture effects.

Time to do some shoulder and neck stretches now – ready for the home straight tomorrow!

 

 

My Journey – building a town

Another busy day stitching – you can tell because the fabric piles aren’t quite so neat and tidy today!

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I paid a visit to the local library this week and was delighted to discover a copy of ‘Threads – The Delicate Life of John Craske’ by Julia Blackburn.  The book tells the story of the author’s investigations into the life and work of Craske, crippled by a mysterious illness, he could no longer work as a fisherman/ fishmonger and turned to painting and, later, embroidery. His work was shown in London in the early part of the twentieth century but unlike Alfred Wallis, the painter fisherman of St Ives, he slipped out of view until this book was published last year. Intrigued by his story and by Blackburn’s prose I brought the book home and began to read – one passage caught me up short, it seems to capture some of the meaning I am trying to show in our project – My Journey

‘All these fragile vessels: tossed by waves and sometimes almost engulfed by them, out there in the vastness of the ocean. Some were pinpointed by the angled glare of a lighthouse like the eye of God staring straight at them, others had smoke billowing from their funnels as they tried to  plough a way through a storm. I had the sense at once that it was all true: the tilt of a boat in relation to the swell of the waves and the strength of the wind; the rigging, the billowing of the sails.’

Julia Blackburn Threads Ch 3 pg 11 (published 2015 Jonathan Cape)

I don’t credit myself with a fisherman’s knowledge of boats and I hope our lighthouse will seem more welcoming rather than glaring – but I did feel a connection as I read these words. (You’ll have to wait until I’ve finished the book and returned it to the library if you want to read on!)

I’ve been working on the town and the light house this week. The reason the fabrics are so muddled is because I’ve been searching for pieces to become rooftops – with slate or terracotta tiles, walls – either painted or brick, and stone for the lighthouse. So there’s been a lot of rummaging, ripping and snipping going on!

I haven’t finished working on the lighthouse yet – I’ll go back and add further detail later on – but it has got some neighbours now…

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Larger pieces of fabric used to construct the buildings

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Checking how these two panels link together

I’d better update the list of fabrics I’ve included so far!

Faye, Gill & Harry, Prathiba, Hannah & Reggie, Murray, Alie, Louise, Rachel & Anna, Emer & Harry , Louise, Sarah W, Louise B, Barathi, Donna J, Bethan, Donna, Caz, Anne & Martha, Louise D, Mel C, Beth, Kemmy & Dilan, Viveka… Plus pieces from the LAB and Heaton Manor sessions – sorry I didn’t stitch your names onto the pieces at the time!

Don’t worry if you’ve not been mentioned – I’ve got a lot of blues and greens saved up for the seas!

I’ll be back soon!

Donna

 

 

Acres of blue sky…

It was such a lovely morning today, so before starting to stitch I went for a walk with a friend in the sunshine (observing blue sky for research😊) Lots of chat, fresh air, exercise and a cappuccino set me up nicely for a day in the attic – and we saw one of these too –  

  a tree creeper doing what it does best!

I had to decide how to work on the three pieces before I started work this morning – would I continue working down the first panel to get all the colours blocked in before adding further stitch detail? Or  should I complete all of the sky across the three sections before continuing to work across all three panels to block in the colours? 

Weighing sense of completion, against colour cohesion, I went for the latter – it would have been terrible to run out of the turquoise pieces I’m using in the sky because I’d used it some where else! 

So, sew 😄 several hours later the sky is all ‘blued’. 

  
I wouldn’t like to count the number of small patches I’ve ironed and stitched into place today – but I do now have a new stitching technique- the panel is so big I’ve been standing up to machine it! 

 
I think I made the right choice as this is all that’s left of two particularly ‘sky-ish’ spiral dyed pieces!

  
I’m off to Gallery 45 in Felton tomorrow for the Meet The Maker event – so if you fancy a trip to the countryside – and some lovely cake😄 come along and say hello!

  
See you soon!

My Journey – storm clouds gathering!

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This is the first panel of the triptych under the needle! This is an upside down view of the storm clouds at the very edge of the piece.

It has been great to finally start stitching – definitely prefer this to all that measuring and crawling around on the floor!

To create the image, I select the colours from the spiral dyed and painted fabric, then tear them into small strips and place them in the right parts of the design. The plain white base fabric is covered with a fusible web – this means that I can see the outline of the design through it and, once the colour pieces are in place, I iron them so that they fix to the fusible web. this means they stay in position without the need for pinning or tacking.

I work on smallish sections because, otherwise, the manoeuvering  of fabric through the sewing machine can make some of the fused pieces fall off – very frustrating! (Can you tell I worked this out through experience?!) I  straight stitch with the machine set for freestyle embroidery, so I can go back and forth along the fabric pieces to secure them. Once they’re stitched in place I move on to the next section and repeat the process. Then, when an area is complete – the sky say, or the fields, I’ll work over it with more machine or hand stitching to add detail. On the clouds in the picture above you can see I’m starting to add some definition. I’m trying to create a squally shower effect at the bottom edge of the darker clouds.

So far I’ve included fabric from the pieces dyed by the following – Faye, Jill & Harry, Alie, Louise (mon), Prathiba, Rachel & Anna, Mumay, Emer & Harry, Louise (tues),Sarah W, Linda, Hannah & Reggie, Sue & Ted and two of the girls from Heaton Manor ! I’m not sure if you’ll be able to spot your colours but I’m going to try and keep a record of whose goes where!

I’m looking forward to starting the waves tomorrow – that will probably include some embroidery on soluble fabric to create the sea spray.

Be back soon!

Trace it and then trace it and trace it again..

Preparing any project is time consuming and I’m continually reminded of the adage ‘measure twice, cut once’ as I scale up the design for the triptych. It’s a 500% increase to get it to the right size, so there’s definitely lots of measuring going on!

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I scale up the design so that each piece is the finished size of 900 x 700 cm. These are on card and, once drawn out the image is strengthened with black marker (1)– this is so that I can see it through the vilene stiffener that I put behind larger pieces of work. The image is traced onto the vilene (2), then I cover the surface with fusible web and trace the image through onto the backing paper (3). The backing paper is carefully peeled away so that I can use it as a pattern later. Finally for this preparatory stage, I iron on the plain white fabric that will form the background to the piece – this takes a while as I want to keep the grain of the fabric as straight as possible so that when it is stretched onto a frame later it will behave nicely and not twist or pucker!

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Tracing onto Vilene

After taking a bit of break on Friday, I spent most of Saturday going through these preparations. Chuckling merrily to myself because I’d read an article online about how much healthier we’d be if we stood up more during our working day – how much more does standing up, kneeling down, crawling around the floor and stretching across a 210 mm wide design aid my health then? Being an artist is definitely not a sedentary job!

But hey, look – it was all worth it because here comes the sky!

I’ve been out for a blast of fresh air this morning – not so much blue sky but I did find some lovely images of boats and harbour walls up at Seaton Sluice to add to my research folder for these pieces..

Some of the waves out beyond the harbour will be good inspiration for the stormy sea section of the first panel too!

And you may recognise the Seaton Sluice headland in this smaller piece I’ve just completed – it’s on display in the Coast exhibiton at Gallery 45 in Felton this month

 

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My Journey continues

Well, that was a busy month of workshops. There is now a huge stash of gorgeously coloured fabric in my work room, awaiting transformation into the triptych for the church.

The Lab Youth Group got to try fabric painting. The aim was the same as for the spiral dyeing workshops – using colour to represent ideas and emotions linked to each participant’s ‘Journey’ to and with the group. By working with thickened dye they could also use shapes and mark making to further explore their ideas.

All in one short session so there was time to make (and eat) pancakes too!

 

Young people from Heaton Manor also got to try their skills at fabric painting. Beautiful mark making and very thoughtful comments about how colour could show our moods and emotions. Such a wide variety of images emerging during the afternoon session.

Since the workshops finished I’ve been busy thinking about the writing from all the groups and the colours created in the fabric workshops. Now I’ve got ideas in my sketchbook so its time for me to get creating….

My Journey

The project continues…

This week has seen more dyeing workshops for groups at Heaton Baptist Church. Spiral dyeing is such a great activity, a quick way to achieve exciting colour patterns and effects.

It’s been interesting to hear people’s ideas as they’ve added the colour, thinking about family, the energy of toddlers and so on.

We had lots of colour mixing going on too – thinking about how to mix more colours from the choices of yellow, red, turquoise, navy and brown. Sometimes only one colour will do to sum things up…

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Sometimes the trickiest bit is twisting the square of fabric into a spiral – especially when there’s a little one needing a cuddle too!

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Whatever, the colour combination, once the dye is applied, the fabric spiral is slipped into a plastic bag and left to ‘cure’ for 24 hours.

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For the third workshop this week, with a group of young secondary school pupils, I took a different approach. First, we talked about creating a timeline of events and thinking about the mood and emotions associated with those events – how did we feel on waking up, what was it like going to school facing the strong winds of Storm Henry? The group used marker pens to draw or write out their timeline on paper, then they were asked to try and paint a piece of fabric with thickened dye, using different colours and marks to represent the feelings from their timelines. This resulted in 5 very personal and individual pieces.

All the dyes used in this project are fibre reactive type that works well with cotton fabrics. They can be mixed with a seaweed based thickener to make them into paint that can then be applied to fabric with a paintbrush, stick, sponge or other implement.

 

My Journey

A participatory community art project for the weekday users of the Heaton Baptist Church Life Centre.

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And so it begins – with two trolley loads of materials!

This project aims to build stronger connections with the adults and young people who attend groups at the Centre on Mondays to Saturdays. My role will be to engage with some of the groups through art workshops and then to produce a large textile artwork from the source material, for display in the entrance to the building.

The theme for the project, My Journey, is intended to encourage participants to talk about how their own ‘life journey’ has led to them joining a group or groups at HBC.

This week, I have been running ‘Spiral Dyeing’ workshops with the Toddlers Groups that meet on Monday and Tuesday mornings. My preferred textile process is applique with free machine embroidery, and lately I have returned to dyeing fabrics to achieve a specific colour palette to work with. So, for this project, I want to use fabrics that have been coloured by workshop participants. We talked about how colour can be symbolic – in the general and personal sense – for example, red can mean love, or anger – but it might also bring memories of a red dress worn on a specific occasion.

In preparation, I made colour boards that are being used at HBC to get participants thinking about colours that could represent stages in their life journey. At the workshops, I also took along examples of colour in my own work and that of other artists.

Spiral dyeing is a quick and easy way to get gorgeous colour combinations on fabric. I use procion dyes on 100% cotton that has been pre soaked in a washing soda solution and is still damp.

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With the dye already mixed and in squeezey bottles, all that’s needed is to twist a flat piece of cloth into a spiral, place it in a tray and add the colour! Its relatively mess free – but still best to wear gloves and aprons -just in case!

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Here you can see the first splashes of yellow being added – colours can be made by pouring one dye over another..

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where the red and yellow mix, orange will appear – definitely a ‘high energy toddler’ colour!

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The greens here have been achieved by mixing yellow and turquoise or navy.

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when everyone has added all their colours, the fabric spirals are placed in plastic bags and left to cure for 24 hours before washing off in cold water – I just need to make sure I keep tabs on whose is which!

I’ll be posting pictures of the finished pieces when they’re all rinsed and dried. Two more workshops for this next week and, I think, a slightly different fabric colouration method for the secondary school group on Tuesday.