A small thing

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This is short post about this very small piece which measures about six inches by four inches.  It is made on a piece of old quilt with needle-turned appliqué.  The appliqué is mainly done with plain fabric which I monoprinted, but I used such small pieces that it just looks like striped fabric:

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The fruit is meant to look like an apple, although I think it looks more like an orange.  I made the piece because someone was telling me about the old, and now defunct, I think, Austrian custom whereby young women would put a piece of apple in their armpits and then do a ritual dance.  At the end of the dance they would give the apple slice to their lover who would eat it.  I presume if he refused the relationship came to an end.  The way I was told the story was that the lovers put the apple slices in their armpits and then danced together all night and then swapped slices at the end and went home with their lover’s scent impregnating the fruit so they could continue to think of them.  I think this is a nicer version.

This was a quick piece to make and I think the old, battered, frayed quality of the piece goes with the old, romantic tale.  The piece of old quilt came from the Welsh Quilt Museum in Lampeter.

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More embroidery

My last post was about the fox piece that I started at the Mandy Pattullo workshop I attended.  I really like Mandy’s work and I wanted to do a bit more with some of the ideas that we discussed at the workshop, so here are a couple more pieces.  They are worked on top of a variation of a hexagon rosette all done in Laura Ashley fabric and then applied to a base.  These were then washed at 90 degrees and tumble-dried.  This gives a nice antique-y feel to them, but it also makes what is already pretty dense fabric almost impossible to stitch into.  I live and learn.  I thought just embroidering through the top layer would be okay but the furnishing (decorator) weight, if anything, got denser rather than softer.  Still, the end results were pretty and confirm me in my view that more is more with regard to decorative pieces.  A few tasteful marks would have been useless.

First is this piece which has a vague look of seventeenth-century crewel work to me:

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Compare it to one of Mandy Pattullo’s pieces and you can see the influence:

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The second is rather more folk-arty, I think:

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It reminds me a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch art which I have always loved since my mother’s penfriend sent me a tiny PD pendant when I was a very little girl:

This one is applied to an IKEA linen tea towel cut in half.  This would be lovely to stitch into were it not for the upholstery weight rosette behind it.  I am particularly proud of this piece for an odd reason: I managed to find my set of yo-yo or suffolk puff makers which I bought years ago before I realised what a fruitless task making suffolk puffs is.  But on this they really work and the gadget makes them quick and easy to make.  I had three go-s at the plant pot before this finally worked.

I am really enjoying making them, and the medical profession is very keen on my doing embroidery at the moment, and so everyone, temporarily at least, is happy.

Laura the fox takes a moonlight stroll in her new lacy black stockings

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Last week I went to Bristol Quilters’ workshop with Mandy Pattullo.  I had a great day.  Mandy Pattullo is an artist whose work I have admired since I saw it at the Festival of Quilts a couple of years ago.  Her work is with old and often recycled textiles and embroidery.  She was very generous in allowing us to photograph her work and so here are a few photos to show the sort of work she does:

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She gave us each a piece of a plain old quilt and some templates for flowers and hearts and things, as well as a couple of pieces of very worn old quilts which we used to start the background.  I decided early on that I wanted to make a fox as we are having fun and games with our dogs getting us up at 4.00 am most mornings to root out whatever is in the garden and which I think might be a little vulpine friend.

I was sitting between two great quilters, Alison and Nathalie, and they gave me the fabric for the fox’s body and legs.  I was really pleased to be able to use Nathalie’s Laura Ashley fabric for the fox’s body as this fits in with the project that I have been doing for ages.  Alison gave me the fabric for the legs – which I would make much finer if I did it again.  Foxes have black legs, surprisingly, and this was the best we could do, but they do look like lacy tights, which I rather like.

The method is to block in some thing like the fox body or a vase and then to take a water soluble pen and draw a line and then improvise round it.  I drew my line which I turned into a tree.  It’s done with chain stitch in stranded embroidery cotton.  The whole piece came together at the end when I put those black flowers clipped out of a quilting cotton and then stitched down with detached chain stitch and colonial knots, the latter done in orange to try and tie everything together.

The fox was done in needle-turned applique which I enjoyed doing far more than I expected.  Then I put a mix of slivers of leopard print cotton and straight stitches in a variety of threads, some of which were given to me by my good friend Mary from her mum’s stash:

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I embroidered the eye and nose.  I finished the piece with a backing of terracotta Laura Ashley fabric to echo the fox.

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This is the page from my notebook/sketchbook about the piece:

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I really enjoyed the workshop and meeting Mandy, who was great.  I want to do a bit more in this sort of style but without the old quilt as I don’t have one to cut up.

Little piece of improvisation

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Just a quick post.  This is a little panel – 12″x12″ which was an improvisation as part of my on-line art class.  The starting point was to have a person, an animal and a plant.  You had to change something towards the end which is why I put the little door on the tree trunk.  I think it was a mistake and makes it too twee.  Also find the figure rather derivative of the popular sketchy girl style.  But it was fun and quick to do and I enjoyed making it.  The dogs, I suppose, are examples of broderie perse where you apply something that you have cut out of one fabric onto another – usually to make the patterned feature fabric go further.

Bjorn Wiinblad meets Elizabeth Taylor meets Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile

Basically today is a photo gallery of the pieces I made based on Bjorn Wiinblad’s paintings.  This one has hair made of hearts which were cut out with a sizzix cutting machine.  Once I discovered that you could use it with fabric with bondaweb already attached, I was away.  But it really only came to life with the sequins.

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This one also has die cut pieces.  The flowers here remind me of those floral rubber swimming caps which were so fashionable when I was growing up.  Again, the big acrylic gems which are stuck on are what brought it to life.

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This one was in the last post.  The headdress here is made from cheap sequins.

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This one is most like the Cleopatra which inspired the series, with a few details:

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This one is directly based on one of Wiinblad’s paintings, including the patterned nose:

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Finally, the woman in the magnificent hat.  This felt very clunky because Wiinblad never painted a hat like this as far as I could see.  I had no end of trouble making it work. but once I put the golden feather or spray of leaves on it it suddenly burst into life.

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I really enjoyed making them.  They are meant to be joyful and not to have any social commentary in them at all!

 

C is for children’s art

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Some of you might know that I have been on quite a lengthy period of sick leave.  One of the things that I have done during this time is to follow a web-based mixed media art class.  It follows the letters of the alphabet and there is a drawing exercise and a mixed media assignment every two weeks.  We are now at the stage of being asked to produce a series of work based on what we have done so far.

C was for children’s art.  I am not particularly well-versed in children’s art, although I do have a lovely painting by my godson in my office, but I was really taken with an image in Jonathan Fineberg’s The Innocent Eye which is about the influence of children’s art on modernist painters.  There was a child’s stripy head which influenced Jean Dubuffet which I absolutely loved.  So I thought I would work with that, although unfortunately I can’t find a reproduction of the picture.   I was also doing some drawings of faces and experimenting with very simple cartoon-y faces.  I thought I might do something with Joan Eardley’s wonderful paintings of working -class Glasgow children.

I think these are stunning and decided I would make some dolls based on these.

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But I still couldn’t quite let go of the stripy head so I made some little pieces in my scrap book using either paper or washi tape which is lovely Japanese printed masking tape:

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In the end, I thought it would be more of a stretch to do the stripy faces than the dolls which I know how to do.  I made a template and cut out some striped fabric to make the heads.  I bonded them to some remnants of heavy furnishing fabric linen.  Then I drew round the template in my sketchbook.  I was struck by how the simple round heads looked so much like the work of Bjorn Wiinblad, who is one of my favourite artists from my childhood.

When I was in Copenhagen last year I made my lovely Danish second family take me out to the Arken Gallery to see a big Wiinblad exhibition.

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I remember these illustrations from my youth.  I remember seeing his work or a very good copy of it on chocolate boxes although I can’t remember the brand.  These plates with illustrations of the months of the year are so familiar to me that I think the chocolate boxes must have been by Wiinblad or a follower:

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I love his super-decorative style:

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and those decorated noses:

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I thought I would work on these.  I did some sketches and in the bottom right hand corner where I was working out the pyramid shape of the headdress I suddenly saw Elizabeth Taylor popping up:

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She looks really badly sun-burned but still gorgeous, and so I decided to make a series based on the fantastic headdresses she wears in Cleopatra:

and she wore mad stuff in real life:

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I used gouache which is one of my favourite forms of paint because it is so blocky.  The colour is very bright and very flat.  This whole project has a very illustration-like feel and gouache was traditionally used in art layouts for advertising material.

So far I have made up two of the series.  The first is the flower pyramid which I did in stickers in the sketchbook but with huge sequins from Tiger, a treasure trove chain store, in the piece:

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Were I to do this again I would be more careful not to get that purple stripe over the mouth, but I was going for a naive childlike approach.  The second piece uses beads and a very fancy button:

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Both were really good fun to make and I stuck very closely to the sketch, which is unusual for me.  The sketch allowed me to make templates to cut out the hair, but also to check the eye placement and so on.

The point of the class on children’s art was to try to remember our joy in drawing from childhood.  I used to love to draw and to make collage, and I think the simplicity and boldness of this helped me to remember those feelings.

Fabric pictures of houses

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Quick post today.

Yesterday was the first event on the schedule that I have drawn up with my visiting US quilt scholar academic, Marybeth Stalp.  As part of the workshop, I made up some packs for people to do some sewing who weren’t ‘self-identified’ stitchers.  I made some samples to show them what they could make with the packs and the extra materials I had provided.  The theme was around the domestic and what happens when your hobby turns slightly serious.  We had a great afternoon, and here are the samples, pictures of houses or homes, to go with the theme of the day:

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House and home

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This is a quick post today, to some extent to show I am still alive.

I am planning a series of events with a visiting quilter from the US, Marybeth Stalp, and one of them involves a workshop in which we will invite participants to make something as we are talking.  I thought that it would be nice to have a domestic theme, and that we could make houses.  Houses have nice simple shapes and are something we can all have a go at making recognisable.  So I have been making some samples.  This is my first attempt.  The house itself has got to be achievable over the course of the workshop, but I know from experience that people are going to ask what they can do with them.  So I put this one on a backing fabric and all of a sudden it became a tree house, so I added some leaves and a bird.  It’s become a bird tree house.  I am really interested in that conversation with the materials, when the picture tells you what it wants.  This one wanted to be a bit whimsical, and possibly, and this might be fanciful, it wanted to remind me of the importance of living creatures and their needs for home as well us humans.

As usual, this is made entirely from scrap fabric which would otherwise go into landfill, including the thread which came from surplus floss for embroidery kits.  The bead for the eye and the button for the doorknob came from a tin my mother found at the back of a shelf.

 

You win some, you lose some

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I came across Carla Sonnheim’s blog as part of a weekly challenge that I periodically dash to catch up with.  Sonnheim has lots of ideas for doing art with children as well as stuff for adults and is well worth checking out.  There are some lovely free short tutorials on the blog which caught my imagination.  One of them was an exercise using washi tape, which is basically exquisite, addictive, collectable printed Japanese masking tape.  My favourite is the MT brand, which I think just stands for masking tape.  I am embarrassed about the amount of it I have got.  It is about £3-£5 a roll so you think it’s a cheap treat, but it rather adds up.  You can get it everywhere now.  IKEA do a nice but limited range, Paperchase has lots, including authentic-looking Japanese designs, as well as lovely vintage-looking stuff.  I even found a reasonable range in Wilkos.  You could also use ordinary masking tape and colour it with felt pens or similar.  So, if you want to have a go at this it is easy to find the materials.

The exercise involved cutting or tearing five pieces of washi which you arrange on a piece of paper in any way you like.  Then you take a different roll of tape and add five more random pieces this time making sure to overlap them with the first five.  Then you turn the paper round and look for an animal in it.  This is fairly easy as we are programmed in some way to recognise faces in abstract shapes and finding animals is only one step up.  Then, when you have found the beast, you add more tape to fill in outlines and build it up and finally finish off with a pen to draw in details and firm up silhouettes.

I had a lot of success with this.  First off was a found poodle with a jaunty hat:

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Then a stretching dog:

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Then a bird partially hidden in foliage:

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I really liked these and they reminded me of the wonderful work of Peter Clark who makes exquisite paper collages of dogs like this one:

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So, I thought the next step would be to try to do this in fabric and thread.  I do a lot of drawing with the needle embroidery, and so I was confident I could do a nice sketchy drawing.

I decided to recycle and use the baby wipes I use for putting paint onto my sketchbook pages, dried out and pressed.  I ironed them onto bondaweb and cut them into shapes.  I learned my first lesson right there.  A lot of the energy of the washi pieces comes from the fact that they are torn not cut.  My cut up wipes looked more like tangram pieces.  Tangram is a square cut into seven pieces which you arrange to make pictures.  I think you are supposed to use all seven, and I hated doing it as a child, so that put me in a slightly bad mood – reinventing something I hate:

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I persevered and then discovered that the sewing machine, which is my very grate frend, really did not want to stitch through baby wipes and fusible adhesive onto furnishing fabric with cheap polyester thread.  I gave up in the end as you can see in the elephant.  Anyway, here are the results:

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This is my found whale, and here is a detail:

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I include this to show the very subtle marbling on this wipe used to apply deep blue acrylic paint (I dispose of the cloths responsibly, by the way).  Here is the elephant:

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As you can probably see, I finished them off with a very heavy felt marker pen.

So, I loved the washi versions, and the second learning point was that they worked, particularly the poodle, because the washi was so good.  But the technique did not transfer that well to cloth because the edges were too defined and mechanical.  I couldn’t tear the wipes and so a lot of the spontaneity was lost.

Six pear notebooks

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Over the Bank Holiday weekend I have been making strenuous efforts to clear up my work room – photographic evidence to follow.  But, in my experience,  there is only so much clearing up you can do before you become bored with the whole thing and give up.  So at various intervals I did some sewing.  These six little notebooks, which are pocket-sized A6, I think, were made during one such break.  I have made them to say thanks to the people who helped me to prepare a bid for funding.  They are made from fabric which would otherwise go into landfill, plus a bit of organza in my stash.  They were very quick to make, and were one of those projects where everything just fell into place.

Over the years I have developed my own set of symbols, some of which are obvious such as oak leaves for strength, some not so straightforward: peacock feathers for authority.  Pears symbolise the imagination for me, with a bit of danger or difficulty thrown in.  In fairy stories sitting under a pear tree was asking for trouble, and in the weird Grimm fairy story ‘The Handless Maiden’ the pears are magical.  Plus, they are my absolute favourite fruit, and easy to draw!  So, they seemed appropriate to say thanks for help towards preparing a bid to do exploratory and innovative work.

They will be going to their new owners next week.  News about the outcome of the bid to follow.