Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Leap of Faith

Last week, inspired by the Cas Holmes exhibition, I experimented with collaging fabric and paper - again!

This is the third piece I put together, using the packing list for my daughter's residential trip to Hindleap Warren on Ashdown Forest.  I added some random bits of her timetable for the week, some labels cut out of her old clothes, a section of map showing the Ashdown Forest and a Waitrose bread wrapper from our lunch the first day she was away.

The words "leap of faith" had been haunting the Girl for months, ever since she started Year 5 and the much-anticipated trip became imminent.  From what I can gather, the Leap of Faith is a tall pole which they have to climb and then "leap" from to catch a trapeze bar.  I don't think she did it in the end, but she did do the "high ropes" which apparently were much higher and more scary...

Leaps of faith can also usefully describe our day-to-day life.  With the precarious financial situation in our wholly self-employed household I should perhaps follow this piece up with two more entitled: "Hold your Nerve" and "Don't Look Down".

Monday, 28 March 2011


Not sure what it is, not sure if I like it, but it has kept me occupied...

Saturday, 26 March 2011


After using quite a lot of sugar to make this:

and adding a load of these:

and mixing it all together for three hours in a small house,

it's time for a little glass of something then a lie down in a darkened room.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The smell of freedom

A daphne in the Himalayan Glade at Wakehurst Place.
Enjoyed à deux.

The Girl has been away with school since Monday.  Usually when we go to Wakehurst it is impossible to have a "conversation" as one or other of us is having our ear bent about goodness knows what.  There are a lot of three-legged donkeys in this part of Sussex.

It's been a mini holiday.  Our first real break for ten years.

On Monday we ventured into Kent (just) to see an exhibition by Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly in Tunbridge Wells:

I liked this detail in particular:

as I spent a summer battling the midges and the Rhododendrons at Inverewe Gardens.

I must do more sketching and drawing:

I loved having the chance to get up really close and look at the layers and the stitching. 

All the above are Cas Holmes.  Anne Kelly's work is similar but different...if you see what I mean:


a lot more stitch:

Cas Holmes' work in particular had a real lightness to it. 

And the best thing of all  is that instead of all this inspiration having the cold bucket of homework chivvying and piano practices and are-there-any-letters-from-school poured over it at 3pm,  I was able to get messy and sticky and not clear up anything or cook anything or think about anyone else until 6.30pm!!!

And on three nights this week we've even gone out!!  After dark!!  To the pub!!

I've eaten three cheesecakes (slices, not whole ones, and not all at once) and tonight we went the whole hog and had a full dinner out, not just pudding and a glass of wine. 

I fear if the girl wasn't coming back tomorrow and we continued to live like this, my derrière would soon resemble the lower portion of this piece of interactive woodland sculpture, found this morning at Wakehurst:

This is the top half:

And this is the whole thing:

The strings on either side are attached to wooden "claves" so you can tap away on the various bits of the sculpture, as different parts make different notes.

The bear's bottom was particularly resonant.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Laters, Pops

Throughout the day I have been more than aware that a countdown has now started.  It has been quietly ticking along for a few weeks, as we have been thinking about the Girl's impending tenth birthday, but today it has got significantly louder.

Today marks the day ten years ago that I saw my Dad for the last time.

I was heavily pregnant, and nervous about leaving home and the easy reach of our hospital for long periods of time.  He was at home drinking Guinness with his horse tablets and oxygen, just a month after we were told that there were no more options for treatment.  A few days earlier he had tried pouring his G&T into his nebuliser....way to go, Pops!

I massaged his puffy feet, and he told me not to have the baby induced early for his sake, as it was a dangerous thing to do.  We drank a dry sherry together.  I went home, and had a stinking cold for the next week and was thankful that I didn't have a cold when I went to see him.

The countdown ends on the Girl's birthday, so I won't be commemorating it then, marking as it does the death of both parents.  An unsettling coincidence, especially when considered (if considered is the word) at 11.59pm on the 25th March while in the delivery room of the Princess Royal Hospital.  The realisation that we're not quite there yet, the clock hands move too fast.  It will be the 26th.  The realisation that this is just how it will be.  The same day.  The same day as my mother in 1973.  And then just six hours and twenty minutes after my daughter's entry into the world, my father's exit as well.

So today is my remembrance day for Pops, not the Girl's day.
I didn't have a swig of the black stuff, but downed a few sloe gins in his memory.  He always had a jar of sloe gin in the cupboard under the stairs, but I don't remember him ever getting round to drinking it.

Experimental cabbages

Another project on the long list of things I'm supposed to be doing for a group exhibition in November is an embroidery based on a visit to Merriments Gardens.  Unfortunately on the day we visited in July, we had only just made it past the ornamental cabbages when it started to bucket with rain:

And with only photos of cabbages for inspiration, the other limiting factor in this challenge is that is has to be "abstract". 

Oh, it will be abstract all right.

I'd been toying with the idea of stitching on a sandwich of papers and water soluble fabric, then giving it all a jolly good scrub in the sink and seeing what's left.  I thought I would start with a small experimental piece of stitching just to try it out, but ended up stitching my cabbages:

I did it all quite quickly, then soaked and squidged it and put it on a tray with some watered down purple Brusho, and left it to dry on a piece of plastic*:

Hmmm.  I wasn't too sure at this stage but I couldn't wait for it to dry naturally, so I went at it with a hairdryer.

This is the end result just sitting on top of a piece of coloured card for now.

If I put a little more thought into it, I might do each leaf separately. 
And if I don't get round to doing any more, I reckon I'm quite pleased with it anyway.

* thick black horticultural plastic, cut into A3 pieces - jolly useful stuff

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Not a lot to show for it

At the back end of last week I made a lot of paper fabric type stuff:

I made a lot of pieces using my own version of the Beryl Taylor method, to trial different glues and different fabrics, trying to find a "definitive" method.

I also tried Jill Kennedy's method for making fabric paper using crayons, paint and Vilene:

Which I then had a go at stitching.  I didn't put Bondaweb on the top like Jill says to do, I used acrylic wax and I wanted to make sure the paper top didn't shred when I stitched it:

It didn't shred, but I'm not sure why it all came out purple - not one of my usual colours.  And I ran out of inspiration for the stitching.

I then thought I'd better try making some little books, coz if I'm going to teach other people to do this I sort of need to know what I'm doing.

This very tiny book came out quite well:

(Shame about the undyed calico lining, but there we go.  Today I tried "dyeing" some with Brusho, which seemed to work.  Not completely colour-fast, but who washes books?)

So it all worked OK, but it's not a lot to show after making such a stack of papers.  I was a bit disappointed with myself, to be honest,  particularly after making this:

Oh yes, it looks half reasonable in the photo...

But I think that staying up 'til 11.30 to rip and paint papers and make cords wasn't such a good move.


Never mind the hideous colours, the pages stick out of the top and the cords are too low down.  Should have just gone to bed early if that's what I produce by staying up late.

Friday, 11 March 2011


Someone has been rushing out of the house after tea every night this week, and mostly it was me. 

I had a freebie course for art tutors on Thursday evening that I had completely forgotten about until the late afternoon.  Just as well I remembered or else I would have been in trouble, and I would have missed the opportunity to do this:

We were a very select group of two tutors (machine embroidery and jewellery making) and one art coordinator (the boss) being taught how to cut and print woodblocks by another art tutor (printing).

I discovered that I'm completely cack-handed at using sharp implements, but I had fun anyway. 
I went with blue hands after a day playing with Brusho paint powders, and came home with turquoise hands after an evening playing with Speedball printing inks.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Plans and pressure

I did this quickly last night, and finished it this morning, just to trial an idea. 
It started life as one of the pieces of fabric paper that were causing some stuckness  a few weeks ago.
I think I've invented a new easy way to applique snippets of fabric, so I'm quite excited about that. 
And I like that I stitched some leaves, and I love leaves. 
And I haven't tried to do yet another unsuccessful landscape.  

I had a meeting on Monday to decide what (and if) I was teaching next academic year.  I'm doing the 30 week course again, and as a bonus I've wangled an extra two-day course in May 2012: I want to do something more "messy" and that kind of thing can only really be done on a day course, not in a few hours on a Wednesday evening. 

As I was leaving, thinking that I had over a year to plan something suitably messy and interesting, the powers-that-be suddenly decided that I may as well do the two-day course THIS year.  So no pressure.

I will probably do fabric paper (or is it paper fabric?), and we can make little book covers.  With cords.  And maybe some beads.  I love beads....and cords...

So what was a vague idea now has to be put down on paper and handed in by the end of the week...
and I need to see if my vague idea will actually work...which means that I have to glue things and stitch things as if I was a beginner, with no interesting threads or fabrics, no real idea of what I'm trying to achieve, and no "extras" that I can just go and get from another part of the house...and the students have to come with nothing and go home with "something"...and I have to cost it all out and think of everything we may possibly need. 
Like, now.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

No hat eating this time

We made a bit of a mess in the kitchen this afternoon ("this aft" as we used to say when we lived in North Yorkshire):

Making galettes and crepes:


I made 12 galettes in one go.  Girl had two, with ham (and we had the inevitable fight over eating two baby lettuce leaves for a bit of greenery).  I filled some more with ham, mushrooms and cheese then wrapped them into little parcels and put them on a baking tray.  They are in the oven as I type, reheating and getting lovely and crispy.  The spare galettes are now frozen.  Crepes will be made fresh and eaten with sugar and lemon.  I'm drooling already...

I used this stuff for the galettes:

The Girl loves 'em and wanted more, but needed to go to Brownies.  I said I would eat my hat if they didn't do pancakes at Brownies.  Luckily, they did and she had three more but said they weren't as nice as mine.  Bloomin' think so too.

When she was gone, the cook had a little one to use up the batter and some mousetrap cheese from the back of the fridge, as supper was still a long way off:

Don't look too closely at the mat, the Girl must have used it to mop up her yoghurt and blackberry and apple on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in Whippet World:

"Please may I have a blankie on the bench, Mum.  I wish to soak up some rays".

And in stitching land, this took all day Sunday to stitch:

I knew from the start that it was a stinker, but felt strangely compelled to continue. 

I like this bit and will probably cut it out and chuck the rest:

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Blog world

Yesterday the lovely Gina Ferrari came to our Guild to give a talk and share her wonderful work and I got to meet a blogging pal!  I must admit I was a bit tongue-tied - being someone who can feel awkward meeting new people, I found it slightly surreal meeting the real person from the blog - so apologies if I seemed a little strange, Gina - it wasn't personal, it's just me!

There was our usual faff about how to arrange the tables and more than a bit of a scrum around Gina’s table as she unpacked all her bags of treasure, but undeterred Gina’s talk was very inspiring and even kept the old biddies at the back awake. 

It was particularly interesting to learn that Gina's background, and her father in particular, encouraged her into an academic career, but now she is making her living doing all the things that she wasn't allowed to do at school.  Oh how that resonates.  Except I didn't even have the confidence-inspiring words "you'll never make money at art", I was just told that if I didn't commit myself to passing my A levels and getting to university, I may as well just get a job in Tesco - what a choice.

But while the embroidery was of course fantastic, I have to admit that I was most impressed by Gina’s refreshing approach to housework and resolved at once to accept with equanimity the state of fluff and disorder that is my own home!