Category Archives: textile art

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?

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!

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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!

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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 🙂

 

Do Your Own Thing..

Tuesday was such a lovely day! My first public workshop of 2020 – held at the lovely Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.

I started out early so I could squeeze in my regular Tuesday swim before the workshop and managed a kilometre even though I forgot my goggles 🥽- tried swimming with my eyes shut NOT a good idea when you’re swimming in lanes !

The workshop was designed to share methods to help develop unique and personal approaches to creating art – in textiles or other media. First, a talk about how looking at other artists work can help us to make progress with our own work. Then some practical drawing exercises.

Working with a lovely group,I talked about what is ‘Critical for Creativity’ using a methodology I learnt in my first teaching post  – last century!!  We explored how to follow up when a piece of art catches our attention, using a bit of detective work to find out more about artwork and artist – no stalking! I used an example from my own experience – talking about how my love of Vincent van Gogh’s work influenced the creation of  my piece ‘Shingle and Stars’

Shingle and Stars

Shingle and Stars, the influence of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Having talked through how to analyse an artwork – and spend longer than 15 seconds looking  at it! We went through to the gallery and everyone chose a piece of work that appealed to then to try the methodology themselves. I then talked a little more about how I continue to use this methodology and how it helps me to develop as an artist – stressing the importance of continuing to ‘feed’ ones creativity and imagination by learning from other artists. I shared the impact that more recent art ‘crushes’ have had on my own work such as Joan Eardley . The power and scale of her work has encouraged me to work bigger, and her use of collage encourages me in my choice of processes.

Then it was time to tackle drawing – now I know from my experience with students and workshop participants that those who stitch often say they can not draw! But I want to encourage drawing as a way of developing ideas, experimenting and… enjoying the process! So, I put together a series of tasks that would encourage the group to engage with their chosen subject matter and think about what exactly they needed to get from a drawing.

We started by working very quickly, with a range of media and NO Rubbers! When there is only a minute to draw, what do you focus on? The form, the texture? Mark making? Working on sketches for a minute or two can be surprising – it’s amazing how much information you can capture and, as you’ve only spent 60 seconds you don’t feel that pressure for it to be ‘good’ or look ‘right’. I encourage participants to make notes about the drawing experience as we go on …. what works, how it feels, what ideas pop into their heads whilst doing the drawing, the process of drawing can help to clarify the ideas of the artwork to come.

We finished the afternoon with a more extended piece – but drawing using collage – a process that really helps me in my applique and free motion embroidery work.

As with any workshop – I wouldn’t ask participants to do anything I haven’t done myself! So here is one of my 5 minute sketches – and the developing textile work. Once again, the magic of drawing has helped me extend the ideas I have for a piece of work and set me off down another creative pathway…lets see where this one leads to!

Weeds

A continuous line drawing – 5 minutes

 

Weeds

Weeds transferred to soluble film and ready to stitch

Weeds - stitched

Free motion embroidery and applique ready to wash off

I think that I will do several fragments in this way to add further layers to my Urban Efflorescence pieces. I only hope the participants got as much out of the workshop as I did!

I will be running more workshops this year, at the Shipley and independantly, please get in touch if you’d be interested in booking a workshop for your group – and head over to my workshop page for upcoming events!

 

 

Work in progress

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At the launch of our exhibition for Room for You I had my photo taken by Bill Peronneau

So here I am engrossed in teaching needlefelting. A workshop I often run for patients I work with in hospitals. We had the great news this week that funding will continue for another year. So I can continue to dream up crazy installation ideas like this recent one…

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Patients wrote on the rainbow to share what or who helped them get through Radiotherapy, we needlefelted rainbow coloured raindrops to add to the pom pom clouds – patients always find needle felting therapeutic 😉

Progress through process

New work is my focus, I’m applying for several, larger shows so I’ll need work to display (& sell!) I’ll let you know which shows if I get accepte!

I would like to make larger pieces but these are obviously time consuming, and more difficult to transport. So, I’ve decided to focus on 40×40 landscapes for a while- my plan is to get 4 done in the next 6 weeks 😱 that’ll keep me out of mischief (but p’raps not too busy for school and national politics 😉)

Our family week in Wales was fantastic- why did none of you tell me sooner how gorgeous West Wales is??

In between sea swimming and ice creams there were cliff walks on the beautiful Pembroke Coastal Path and visits to Tenby and St David’s. My sketchbook didn’t get quite as much use as I’d hoped but my mind is full of experiences and my photo album is full to bursting.

So this week I’m sketching out the four images that I’m hoping to develop. I’m drawing them to the chosen scale and taking a quick tracing of the main composition to help with building up the appliqué.

Then I get the paints out. I’m using watercolour, water based dyes, inktense and some acrylic. When I paint, it is never the final stage- it is very definitely part of my process; painting allows me to assess how I am going to construct a piece. I can think about colour, texture and composition.

When I’m mark making with brush or pencil I’m thinking about how to transfer it to cloth and stitch. When I apply colour I’m thinking about what fabric and threads I’ll need (thanks Oliver Twists for the threads 😉) The process of painting and drawing helps me to develop my composition ideas into textiles and work through any issues.

I’m pleased with the two images I’ve developed so far, now I’m deciding whether to crack on with these in fabric, or to focus on getting the other two designs developed to paint stage. I’m tempted to start the textiles but I think it would be interesting to get the 4 designs done and then work on the four pieces.

What would you do?

Snow on Saturday

Leftover snow starkly outlining the texture of ploughed fields whilst overhead cirrus clouds till the sky in mimicry of those fields.

A Magpie, perched on the highest twig of a leafless blackthorn. An avian exclamation mark, it punctuates the pause between land and sky.

My reading is beginning to have an impact on my writing; the next stage, I hope,should see an effect on my textile artwork.

Notes from an exhibition 

Joan Eardley -A Sense of Place

Joan Eardley has become a favourite artist of mine. An exhibition of the Glasgow Girls at the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery introduced me to her paintings of Glasgow children. I was drawn to the use of collage and lettering in the background, and the bold colours. Curious to find out more, I began online research and was struck by the energy Eardley captures in her land and seascapes. I tracked down an exhibition in the Clydebank Gallery  a year later  – and worked a visit into that summer’s holiday itinerary (!)

It was fantastic to be able to observe first hand the work that I had seen on line. The landscape paintings are around a metre square,the seascapes even bigger, as if she was trying to make life-size representations of the scene in front of her, so powerful. Imagine trying to manipulate a canvas or board that size outdoors in Scottish weather – Summer and Winter! The texture and colour were inspiring. As I stood in front of the work I tried to follow through the process; looking at underlying colours, often very strong and dark, the way thicker paint was applied in parts of the composition and, how in places real plant matter was embedded in thick layers of paint. There was a book supporting the exhibition. I bought it and took it home to study.

I started trying to build the ideas I gained from studying Joan Eardley’s work into my own textile art; stronger colours, more consideration of composition, thinking about how and where to build up texture. Learning from another artist is empowering, encouraging creativity. The biggest lesson is that reminder that in working in situ ideas and feelings flow into the work.

Then, in December 2016, I found out that there was to be another, more comprehensive exhibition of Joan Eardley’s work at the Scottish Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh – it took me til’ the February Half Term break to persuade my family that they really wanted a weekend in Edinburgh! We compromised – I took them to the Camera Obscura, they accompanied me to the gallery. We met up with friends there, it was good to be able to discuss the work with a great pal – and ex art teaching colleague (Hello Linda!)

This exhibition includes work from throughout Eardley’s all too short career. Completed paintings are supported with sketches and studies, photographs and artefacts and a wonderful film of the artist at work. The work is divided into five rooms, themed through chronology and subject matter. Again, I was entranced by process, the use of media, expensive paints used sparingly then splurged or padded out with filler to create texture. Sketchbook pages stuck together to make a big enough surface to draw on. Collage worked into paintings and sketches. Again, I was struck by the sense of life and energy in the work. And there was another book…

I got the chance to return to this exhibition on Saturday. It was a very short follow up visit- only an hour to go through the five rooms. I was on a weekend trip with the 12 year old, ostensibly to visit the Knitting and Stitching Show and hit the shops with her left over Christmas money. So, we negotiated and an hour was what I got! Focus and determination was the plan. In each room, I studied the pieces that most grabbed my interest, standing in front and typing notes directly on my phone (must get faster at touch typing!) So what follows is the transcript of those notes, with images from the books I bought to remind me. Even reading through them now I get that rush of adrenaline and excitement – it is so important to continue to study other artists’ work. It gives me enthusiasm and ideas, a sense of determination to continue with my work so I get to what I want to achieve. The exhibition is on until the 21st May 2017. I don’t think I’ll get another chance to see it but I have my memories – and I hope there’ll be another one soon….

Fields Catterline 

Be bold bright blue and orange ochre in with greens and charcoal

Obvious layers thick rough texture

Brush marks long embroidery stitch

 

Field with wild flowers 1960-2



Dashes and squiggles with patches on top

What happens if I add larger pieces (organza) over small?

Marks go in & out of focus

Turquoise lime green salmon pink

July Fields 1959


Flat patches either side of texture flower wedge

Patchwork raw edges

Thick thread stitching in texture

That blue again

Summer Fields 1961 


Speedy marks texture change direction

Colours layer and smudge together

Small clear details catch the eye

Real plant matter smothered in dripping paint

Harvest 1960-1


T shape composition

One side blurred – yellow ochre

Just fabric- minimal stitch

Centre -green/ochre heavy texture

Right- greens clearer bold marks over thinner paint

Fields under Snow 1958


Many grey and ochres large smooth patches overlap

Charcoal & burnt umber on top

Brush marks unravel like frayed yarn

Beehives Storm Approaching 1961


Sky smooth blended

Green jade under grey umber

Black black house

Rough tweed tea texture field

Aggressive wind whipped marks

Sketches




Pastel on paper in sketch book

Rust marks

Stitch collage on top

So much energy
Winter Day Catterline 1957-60


Turquoise under umber white peach

Smooth sky

Textures land

Mud fest
Gable end of tenement 1955


Charcoal umber terracotta flashes

Big flat fabric patches

Stitched over

Organza
Two Glasgow Lassies


That pinny

Flame over blue grey

Is it torn, faded, dirty?

Lettering emerging

Stained glass colours

Child before a tenement window 1958-60

Illuminated window- lace curtain?

Positive/negative lace/graffiti
Glasgow Corner shop 


Sketchbook collages of local shops

New series collage raw edges mounted on stained white
Children playing in a street 1960


Pen n ink drawings – become machine stitch sketches?
Girl and Chalked Wall 1955-60


Lettering (for Julia)

Texture on dress French knots

Such a Chagall blue
Summer Sea 1962


So big bold and wild

Paint drips and slashes across the wide sea

Shore is dark as peat

Surf crashes desperately on to it

Short thick vertical marks become wide dripping horizontals

Taste the salt spray
Winter Sea III 1958


What was it like to paint in that storm?

Everything crashing rapid direction changes

Difficult to see through pouring rain?
Fishing Nets Catterline 1962


Ochre n khaki beach thin brush texture visible

Cross hatch netting
Seascape 1956


Sunset fire colours in the waves

Sun thick like butter on burnt toast cliffs

What colour!

British Craft Trade Fair 2017

bubble wrap

Drowning in a sea of bubblewrap as I get everything wrapped up ready to take down to Harrogate on Saturday! I’ve spent an enjoyable day deciding on just how I want to display everything. Pleasantly surprised to discover that I do have enough work to fill my 2 x 1 m shell space. I know this because I mocked up the show in my, almost, 2 x 1 m bay window !!

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There’ll be some jiggling and adjusting but I’ve got an idea now, and in the shell space I’ll have a bit more height so things will have a bit of breathing space. I’m glad I didn’t go for the additional storage unit – there’s no room!!

I did spend/waste quite a lot of time finding the fishing line that I use to find work – why did it take so long to find? Because it was in my exhibition tool kit/vanity case – where it was meant to be but obviously the LAST place I looked for it!

The wholesale price lists, labels and bio are typed up, printed off and mounted on foam board. I’ve still got a whole day to finalise things so I’m feeling quite calm – which feels quite odd!

I’m very grateful to Heaton Baptist Church for the loan of one third of the ‘My Journey’ triptych, and to St Bede’s Palliative Care Unit for the loan of one third of their triptych. I wanted to show community projects alongside my fine art textiles work, and that Heaton Map is just too darn big! (All of these pieces can be found in earlier blog posts).

The rest of the show will be made of recent work and a few old favourites, as I want to give a flavour of everything that I do.

So now its time to pack the tool kit, the step ladders and my trusty flask, and some smart clothes!

I’ll try and do an update whilst I’m at the show..see you in a few days!

…Saturday Wash Day…

Following yesterday’s mammoth dye session, this morning has seen me tied to the kitchen sink (😂NOT my usual location!) all the dyed fabrics have been rinsed in cold water –

Dark Matter!

Rough tops and rough terrain

Wash day Blues

Moorlands

Spring Greens


So now it’s in the machine and I think it’s time for a cuppa whilst I wait 😊

Friday Dye Day

As I’m busy making new work for several shows at the moment, I’ve been very aware that my stash of hand dyed fabrics is diminishing. 

I dye natural  fibre fabrics with procion dyes so that I can have the same control over colour as a painter mixing their own colours might have. Presoaking the fabrics and then painting on the dyes allows me to layer up the dyes to create primary, secondary and tertiary colours. I can also create textures by using different brushes and sponges to apply the dye. 

Pots of dye mixed and ready to be applied



Greens are going to be important in new work I have planned; as I’ll be doing more landscapes I will need everything from acid yellow greens through to dark olive and bottle hues. 


Then I’ll also need blues; for the ocean- from slatey dark tones to almost Mediterranean turquoise.


There will also be buildings, rocks and cliffs to construct in fabric and thread. 


This is going to be my surprise selection- I didn’t want to waste the dyes left over after the painting session so I found more fabrics and added everything to a dye bath. I haven’t stirred the mixture so I’ll see what happens tomorrow when I wash everything off. 


All the fabrics are wrapped up in plastic so that the dye doesn’t dry out – this means the dye molecules have longer to soak into the fibres and there should produce stronger colours. 

All I have to do now is wait until tomorrow when I can unwrap the bundles, wash off the fabrics and see the results…..