Thursday, 29 May 2014

Into gear

It's that time of year, and I can't really believe it's come round again so quickly.

My weekdays are now mostly occupied with exam invigilation. Due to the increasing numbers of students using computers, it's all slightly more complicated than just standing at the back trying not to yawn, handing out pencils, and seeing if I can blag a GCSE or two! But there are the occasional quiet moments, and I can surreptitiously jot down ideas for Art Trail.

Yes, Uckfield Art Trail is now less than two months away and I need to stir my stumps. And as always, I'm pushed for time due to the exam season! I've also got to see my ladies through and out the other side of their City and Guilds, and I don't know who's more scared, them or me! A first for us all, but I'm sure all will be well, as their work is a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

Anyhoo, I've made a start. I have ideas, I have scribbles, and I have started to piece fabric. 

(Sorry about the rubbish photo, it was late and dark outside!)

I can't say exactly where this is going, and it may not even make the cut, but starting is the hardest thing and so now I have!

I'm particularly inspired by nests and pods at the moment, as well as the usual leaves and spirals, and playing with wire and vessels in class the other week started to spark lots of ideas...

I went to see the hugely inspirational PRISM exhibition in London today, and on the train home I made myself write notes about what I liked, and why. I then went and bought 8 stretched canvases for new work (which I had to carry around London in my quest for a Chinese newspaper, don't ask) and yesterday I even sent the Art Trail people my Artist's Statement and the details for my CD weaving workshop.

SO now I've laid down the gauntlet by stating what I'm doing, I've nailed my inspiration, I've gathered the raw materials and today I found the motivation to get going and start making.

Oh, you mean I have to stitch something now?!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Experiments in spontaneity

This is a picture-heavy post, so apologies for that, but hopefully you'll like them!

I wanted to do something different in the Thursday class, something to break us all out of our comfort zones. I also wanted to revise some neglected stitching techniques, such as whip, feather and cable stitch, and teach them to the "new" girls. So while I was pondering how to go about doing this, I tripped over the work of Lauren Shanley, entirely by coincidence at the same time as Gina! I posted the results of my first experiments back here.

So fast-forward to this term. First off, stick a quick collage. Use pictures from magazines, keep your eyes peeled for motifs, shapes, colours that appeal. Try and get things stuck down fast before the inner critic wakes up and starts getting you to double-think and dilly dally.

These are all postcard size.

Hopefully you will have warmed up your spontaneity muscles by now. Repeat, but this time stick down fabric onto a piece of Bondawebbed calico. We used an approximate A5 size of fabric. Again, work fairly fast.

You will find as you do this, that you start to "audition" different pieces. This is absolutely fine, just don't over-think it or worry about the colours clashing. You will instinctively know what colours to use where, and whether you have got the balance of light/dark/size "correct" (whatever that is). Just go for it.

Here are Carole's collages, paper and fabric:

You'll note that Carole has actually followed the paper collages quite closely with her fabric piecing. This wasn't my intention, and was in fact a mistake as Carole now freely admits. It has made it very hard to continue with the spontaneity.

The first fabric piece is the hardest to work with, as it is the most similar to the collage. This is now a practice piece for the stitch techniques. The second collage is more successful as it loosely follows the colours and blocks of tone, but without being too prescriptive.


When you have ironed your fabric pieces firmly onto the Bondaweb and backed the whole with some sort of stabiliser (I use a tearaway paper type of thing) you can start to stitch. 

I outlined most of the blocks then started to add some detail. I used free machining patterns and doodles, and some textured stitch with whip stitch and cable. I also couched some thicker threads by hand. 

At this point, there was a halt in proceedings for people to get to grips with pulling up the bobbin thread to create whip and feather stitch, and using thick threads in the bobbin to stitch cable stitch:

And here's where we're up to after today's class. 
First of all, Maureen's fabric collage, only started this afternoon:

The Indian motifs were 'found' not stitched today :)

Then for those who had already stitched their "backgrounds", we tried breaking out of the confines of bands and blocks, with large patterns and motifs crossing the whole piece. Doing this helped enormously, and things are starting to take shape and feel more cohesive, less random. This is Sheila's:

This is Sue's - she included a fabric/paper transfer (using the Bondaweb on organza method) to add the flower - the other half was used in her paper collage:

and here is Jill's:

I must say, I am mightily impressed with Jill's work! She probably struggled the most to feel "happy" with her paper and her fabric collages, but now she's off and away and starting to enjoy it!

Here is where I'm at (my excuse is I am busy teaching not stitching, so I'm lagging behind now!)

I'm not sure I like them, I prefer Jill's! They might grow on me...definitely need more work, I've only really just started...

Finally finally, to complete this very long post of pictures, I have started a mini book of collages, trying to use bits and pieces I find every day. Here are the first couple of pages:

Look at that, some bits and pieces found at Brighton's Open Houses a weekend or so back.

And looky here, some other bits and pieces I found!

None other than Emma from Skye, and Alison Fibre Frenzi! Oh, and some tea and very good banana cake...

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Chartres cathedral, and other matters

This evening I thought "Right! That's it!" and so here I am.

I haven't blogged for over a month (a month! my biggest lapse ever?), not since we went to France at Easter. Golly, how time flies. I'm up to my neck in Ofsted inspection prep at the moment, but I've had a glass of wine, it's gone 9pm, and xxx it, I'm going to stop doing paperwork and do this instead!

Yes, we went to France. After a horrendous end of spring term, due to allergies (now tracked down to birch pollen, which also apparently explains my new "funny mouth and throat tingle" after eating unskinned almonds and hazelnuts, and peaches and pears - all related, allergy-wise), we were just about ready for a holiday.

But it was a long way.  Mostly motorway, but with a large detour around Paris via Rouen, Evreux, Dreux, and last but not least - Chartres. Of the cathedral fame. The whopping great cathedral you can spot from several miles out, looming on the horizon. 

Here is a photo:

Do you like the digger and the caravans? No? Here is a better one:

Like the graffiti...the cathedral is behind that bush, honest.

Anyway, several many lots of hours later, we arrived somewhere just south of the exact middle of France. The next morning there was a bread van, and funny croissants:

The weather was glorious. We had a lovely enclosed garden, one sun lounger to fight over, four different sitting and eating spots

a view over the nothingness of the Creuse

a rope swing in the cherry tree (there is a Girl in there if you look closely) 

and a gate, so the Whippet couldn't chase the three cats (oh go on, Mum - please can I?)

The garden had a lot of nettles, so I proceeded to embarrass and horrify the Girl by brewing up daily potions of nettle tea - it's a natural antihistamine, apparently. Seemed to work a bit, but relaxing with my feet up on the woodburner with a glass of wine to hand, and having hours of lovely sleep also seemed to work their magic!

Having learnt our lesson last year, the first thing on the list when looking for a gite was said woodburner. Here is the Whippet, after a busy day on the sun lounger. He's still on the sun lounger cushion here...

It may have been warm during the day, but the evenings were tres nippy. And there was still snow on the mountains, so we went to have a look.

Blimey, Mum. Didn't know we were going skiing!

We can also say that we took our bikes to France and went up the Puy de Dome. Here is the Boy with very uncertain ears, on the train going to the top of the Puy.

And here is the view:

What we didn't realise when we booked it up, was that the towns of Aubusson and Felletin were a short drive away. Aubusson, famous for the tapestries, and Felletin, home of the European wool and felt festival! Who knew???

So I obviously had to buy some wool (I may have wool, but I haven't got any from Felletin...) and I proceeded to make a miniature pot for the gite owner's 50th birthday. Possibly the tiniest, most strangely damp present ever!

and I found these wonderful spindles and ball of (linen?) in a junk shop. I wanted to go back for more, but they shut for their three hour lunch break so we ran out of time. Boo.

Then home again home again, via Chartres as before. Look!

I think this is my favourite shot:


one parting glimpse...

Right, got all that lot out of my system. Next time, some embroidery! We've been busy in the classes (as usual) and I've got to get my bottom in gear for Art Trail, so lots of embroidery will be appearing here soon - promise! Just got to get Ofsted out of the way first....