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…
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 😉
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.
On Friday I took a break from the workshop and exhibition prep’ to get some fresh air and family time.
Taking a break can seem like the worse thing to do when schedules are bursting- it certainly took a lot of persuasion to get the revising one away from her books- but it helps us recalibrate and make more progress.
Sometimes a trip to the local park is all that I have time for but a walk through green spaces, listening to the birds and spotting the wild flowers really helps to untie the knots in my thoughts- and my neck muscles!
On Friday, we took off in search of better weather. It was damp and dreary here but looked promising further south, so we headed to Runswick Bay in North Yorkshire.
I’d been working on this in the morning
And then went walking here in the afternoon
The tide was at its highest when we arrived so we decided to explore the cliff walk. A ravine leads from the south end of the bay up a steep, stepped path to the cliffs, it’s part of the Cleveland Coastal Path – we could have walked all the way to Whitby but we had tweenagers with us !
Looking back to the beach
Halfway up the steps looking towards Runswick
From the cliff top
The cliff path is gorgeous, on our right a field of barley (?) was swaying mesmerically in the breeze with skylarks singing their hearts out high above. On our left, the cliff tumbled down to the North Sea, showing its rusty stripes of iron ore, through recent rock fall scars. Terns flew below us, plummeting into the sea to catch fish before bursting out into the breeze again.
Wildflowers broke the green path lines with brilliant colour – speedwell, stitchwort, pink campion, violets, gorse and birds foot trefoil.
We walked as far as Kettleness before turning to retrace our steps and catch last orders for the cafe in Runswick Bay.
So now I have ideas and images to think about and develop; large scale cliff top scenes and smaller studies of wildflowers to add to the Efflorescence series. Time to get back to the workshop now the Yorkshire sea breezes have blown some clarity into my head .
(And I’ll finish that tiny version of Runswick too!)
Honestly, it’s really not written into my contract but it does seem that every fortnight in Chopwell there is crafting to be done and cake to be eaten! I’m only going along to support the ‘Quick Crafters’ group once a month until September, the group are making a textile panel inspired by the village. So far we have tried needle felting, hand dyed fabrics and begun to learn about free machine embroidery.
At this session we began the process of creating the design in fabric – using the cloth that we had dyed in our very first session.
The whole design has been traced onto craft vilene and covered with bondaweb, pieces of fabric are cut or torn to fit, ironed into place and then secured with free machine embroidery.
We all need a bit more practice with the free machine embroidery so after making name badges last time, this week I asked people to fill squares on a simple grid with different marks using the machine stitch. To make the textile artwork come to life, you need to be confident with the machine, so that details and texture can be added on top of the fabric appliqué.
It’s quite common for people to be a bit frightened of the machine – but I’ve only sewn through my finger once or twice! (And thats when I didnt have a darning foot attached!) The real trick is to manage the speed at which the machine runs so that you can control the stitch length and not break too many needles…I recently ordered in 100 machine needles…just in case! Every session at the machine increases skills, the group have purchased a machine for their club and I think that they will soon be confident free machine embroiderers. Part of the idea of this project is that the skills they learn with me will be useful to them in future projects. So I’m expecting to see machine embroidered bunting and bags at future community events!
I’ve got to tweek the design before our next meeting – at the group’s request, the pavillion is being replaced with the fire station, and we also need some more grey fabric to represent the stonework of the war memorial. That’s on my to do list for next week – this week I’ve been doing the final preparations for and taking part in the Hearth Arts Centre Spring Fair.
The Hearth is a lovely venue, there’s a gorgeous cafe and a great range of artists permanently based in the studios there – as well as the visiting artists – this time all selected from Network Artists the next art fair will be in November but do check out the Hearth website for great history, music and other social events!
I sold some new work at the art fair and got invited to take part in another event too! So before I set up at Belford Arts Festival in July, my work will be at the Bywell Arts Festival from 21 -23 June – looks like its going to be a busy summer!
Room For You is the name of the charity that I work for on Wednesday each week. We visit local hospitals here in the North East and work with patients, their families and friends. For almost 20 years, the charity has been bringing creative activity to those experiencing life limiting illnesses. I have written previously about some of the work I have made with and for patients.
In June, we are holding an exhibition about our work with a special Launch Day on Saturday 1st, when artists and counsellors from the team will be present to meet visitors.
We will also be launching a new “Friends of Room for You” project so that if you are interested you can support our work across local hospitals!
It would be lovely to see you there on June 1st – hope you can make it!
As the project I’ve been working on in South Charlton, Northumberland draws to a close, I am starting a new project in Chopwell, Gateshead.
There are similarities and differences with these projects.
In both cases the groups involved are women’s craft clubs. ‘Which Craft’ in South Charlton and the ‘Quick Crafters’ in Chopwell.
The aim of each project is to capture the essence of the location and to share textile skills that each group can use in this and future projects.
Autumn/Winter in South Charlton
In South Charlton, funding came from an energy company that has built a wind farm on land nearby. The money has been used to refurbish the Village Hall and the two textile panels we have made will hang in the entrance. if you look closely you will see wind turbines in both pieces to reference the funding sources.
In Chopwell, funding comes from a project to improve health and wellbeing. With the additional aim of encouraging community engagement.
The panel will hang in a room in the Community Centre.
We have had our final group session in South Charlton, the last few blackberries were stitched on and edges have been neatened. Now the two panels are back on my work table to have their backing panels applied and then, in April the pieces will be hung in the entrance of the Village Hall for everyone to enjoy.
Meanwhile over in Chopwell, at our first practical session we were developing skills for the project. First of all, we dyed fabric that will be used to appliqué some sections of our design.
Then, after a pause for tea and cake (another similarity with the WhichCraft project!) I demonstrated the basics of needle felting. Lots of comments of ‘Oh, this is lovely’ as we learnt to make simple shapes, dots and lines. The merino fibres are so great to use and the colours blend beautifully.
We intend to use needle felting to add details to the wall hanging. I’ve left supplies with the group so they can continue to experiment- along with some ideas for other textile artists to have a look at.
Starting with a task that is new to most participants, dyeing fabrics, helps to encourage team spirit, as everyone is learning together. The method I use is accessible to most ages and abilities- and there’s something magical about transforming plain fabrics into a rainbow palette!
Using small pieces of fabric and working with squeezey bottles of dye keeps the risk of mess to a minimum. My next challenge will be to make this dye process as eco friendly as possible. Currently I use recycled materials and equipment where possible, and only make up enough dye for the project. Natural dye experiments coming up soon though!
Now that the design is finalised ( although the group is already talking about panels 2 & 3! Let’s finish this one first,team!) I will divide it into sections and make a traced pattern for each one so that the group can work on different parts and can also work on their sections in between sessions with me.