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Monday, June 30, 2014

Silk Purses...

famously cannot be made from sow's ears.  I showed you a painted photograph, this one, in fact;
and wondered what it would be like if the white stitching was not so white... and here it is.

I think it's an improvement... but only in photograph form.  (I notice that the colour is different in the two images, the top one is closer to the real colour).  The piece itself is too small, I think.  The curves are interesting, but the intense stitching detracts from them, rather than supports them.  I also think that it looks better on screen  because the darks look darker.

All in all, this has been an object lesson in how not to do it, really.  I admit to having my doubts about this piece from the moment it came off the printer. So...what have I learned?   Perhaps the real lesson should be, listen to the inner voice that says, there's not much you can do with this, and spend your time on stuff that does work.  Then, if you insist on ignoring it, think properly about what stitch is going to do.  Stitch is our friend... but not in this case, where it draws attention away from the important parts of the image.  I also think there's a lot to be said for working with these macro images at a larger scale; if I had done that, it might have worked better...there certainly wouldn't have been a place for that fussy stitching.

So what next?  I'm going to overprint it, I think.  In black.  And then, probably, cut it up.  But not, I'm going to work on something that is working well, just to cheer myself up.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Playing... the only way to learn.  Any child will tell you that, any parent.  Any artist, come to think of it.  Picasso said that it took him four years to learn to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to learn to paint like a child.  So, I spend a lot of time playing with things.  This morning, it was an image of a rose.  I love roses, my grandmother had a garden full of them; I have a lovely climbing rose in this garden that goes from pink to yellow to white... amazing.  I particularly like overblown roses.  This one was in a friend's garden...

I think it's beautiful.  Partly, I think, it's the colour, pinks to purples to golds.  Partly, it's the movement through the piece, from left to right, the curling of the individual petals.  And just look what happens when you turn it round...

Suddenly, it becomes a spiral; it makes me think of seashells.  Or Flamenco dancers, skirts whirling round them.  Even more movement in this version.  I tried  turning the image the rest of the way round, but the other two options were not balanced enough to consider.

I'm reminded that just because an image, or a piece of work, starts out one way, it doesn't mean that it has to be that way for good.  Sometimes it will look better a different way.  If it is well designed, it will look good any way you turn it, regardless of the subject matter.  It's worth trying, if you're stuck with a piece.

Meanwhile...I need to work out what I'm going to do with these images...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Not Just A Picture Of A Cat...

honest, it isn't, though if Mollie could talk, she would be saying that it may be batting to me, but to her it's a remarkably soft and fluffy bed...sigh.  But, cute as she is, she isn't the reason for the image. That honour goes to the unfinished red piece that is lying in front of her.  It is one of the 'Linescapes' pieces, and, as you can see, it is far from finished.  What's interesting about the cloth, is that it has printed marks dyed onto it.  

One of the things you learn, when you are dyeing, is that transfer/disperse dyes only work on polyester.  Nope, sorry, that's just not true; the red of the cloth in this piece has been dyed using Procion MX, as you might expect, but the printed squares have been dyed using transfer dyes.

So, why did I do it?  Well, it comes down to the effect I was trying to achieve.  I wanted marks that were noticeable, but not overly strong, a sort of faded look.  I could have fiddled around with thickened procions, but I would have had to have worked quite hard to get the sort of effect that the transfer dyes have produced here.  There are marks, but they are pale and fairly random, just the effect I wanted.  

The paler strip down one side is painted Bondaweb; you can just see some of the marks on here, though in fact the cloth is covered fairly well with these little square marks, some of which are very pale indeed.

Rules by themselves, like the rule that says, only use transfer dyes on polyester, are useful things... providing you know WHY they are rules (in this case, because the results are not anything like as good as they would have been on polyester cloth).  Nine times out of ten, I will observe that 'rule'; but every time I want something indistinct and interesting, I will break it.  At the end of the day, it comes down to knowing your materials, and using the right material for the right job.  

Monday, June 23, 2014


things fall into place.  I write a daily haiku.  Well, okay, sometimes I don't, but then sometimes six arrive on one it all balances out.  I was driving to see a friend this morning, and noticed a red poppy in the verge.  I thought that its petals, moving in the wind, looked like skirts...reminiscent of the famous Marilyn Munroe pose with the air vent.  And then, later, in my friend's garden, I found this flower... and it all fell into place...

Frilly, flirty skirts
Falling out from a green heart
With pink tinged crown.

These poppies look nothing like the wild poppies... here's a view of one in full flower... but the skirt comparison is even better here.  Nature is wonderful.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Unexpected Surprise.

I'm in the process of weeding out quilts and other work that I don't feel is truly successful, and using it for other purposes (of which more in later posts).  I decided to paint over a number of pieces, including one of my stitched photographs, which I had never really thought of as successful, meaning to then cut them up.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the result of adding a simple wash of colour over the photograph.  Sadly, I can't find the original image (it must be somewhere, but I really can't find it...).  So here's the newly painted model...
You can see some of the original colour showing through the darker paint.  There wasn't enough contrast within the petal areas for my liking; adding paint has improved that quite a lot.  And it has shown up the stitch considerably.  It's a light metallic thread (I have no idea why I chose it... wish it had been darker, but don't feel that anything would be added by changing the colour of the thread.  That said, perhaps some darker painted lines...or crayon lines?).

Or I could turn it upside down...

Pass... I don't know.  I still don't think it's successful as an image as it is...but it might be interesting cropped. So I'll continue to play with it.  For now, though, I think I'll live with it a little, see if there are less drastic actions that can be taken, first.  I will, however, be trying this with other images.  Hand tinted photographs were common once upon a time... so why not hand painted stitched photographs?

The more I think about it, the more I think that I need to do something about that stitch, and the contrast... so watch this space; I'll share how I get on.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It Seemed Like...

a good idea at the time.  I make stuff, that people like, admire, enthuse about.  So I would sell it, and offer workshops, and go to quilt shows and teach classes, and write books.  That way, I could make some money to cover the cost of making the stuff that people like, admire etc...  Seemed reasonable.

Sadly, however reasonable it was, it didn't work.  Other than the books, I've not managed to do much in the way of selling, either stuff or workshops.  It's hard to come to any conclusion other than, people don't actually want to buy what I offer.  So, I'm going to stop.  I've just withdrawn from the last few quilt shows I had planned to do; I can't afford the inevitable financial loss that I would make by doing them.  It's great to meet people and show people stuff, but at the end of the day, I have to eat, too.  I'll keep on my Etsy shop, for the books and such, but probably gradually fade that out too, though I do have more books in my head.

As for the work, well... I have no choice but to continue.  I'll still pop up here from time to time to show you what I'm up to.  But I'm tired of beating myself up by constantly offering things that nobody seems to want.  Some people would say I just didn't work hard enough; that's possible. Others might say the work is Just Too Weird; that's also possible.  But it's what I do, and who I am.  I tried; I failed. Now I get to Move Swiftly On.

A very great thank you to everyone who has bought stuff, been encouraging, told me I'm inspirational, all that nice stuff.  I really appreciated it, and appreciate it still.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Less Is More (part two)

Okay, where was I...

So, I slept on it (not literally of course...).  And when I looked at it next day, I thought... no.  It's still out of balance.

The problem was three fold.  Firstly, the remaining stitching was too intense.  Secondly, the painted transparent cloth that I'd melted back affected the colour of the overall piece, as well as just being Too Much.  And because of that colour change, the triple stripes that were at the heart of the piece were no longer the right colour.  Reader, they clashed.  And they were too thick, somehow, when placed against the more delicate stitching in the first section.  More so in real life than in photograph.  So... I continued to take stitching out from the remaining two sections of the piece.  Fortunately, unlike the rest of it, these sections had been sewn with a single thread on top, making it much easier to remove.  It still took most of an afternoon and evening...sigh.  

That made a big difference, but not quite big enough.  That colour thing was still there.  So, I gritted my teeth and removed the three strips that were at the heart of the piece.  That hurt.  They were in the right place, but they were the wrong colour, and whilst I could have altered the colour, I really didn't want to.  So I peeled them off; luckily they hadn't been ironed on too convincingly, so came off without a problem.

  You can clearly see the difference in this section from the image above; much less texture, no strips, which equals no distraction from the real visual interest, the cloth itself.  But it still didn't feel right.  Another rotation seemed to make it better, and the addition of three lines in a different direction, made this time from wool, felted in place, made the piece acceptable.

This time, the positioning and colouring of the wool echoes and supports the colour in the cloth.  It still sits securely in the 'Linescapes' series, thanks to the added wool lines.  I don't think it's perfect, but early pieces in a series never are... in fact no piece ever is.  If it were, we wouldn't need to make more, and a series would never be born.  

I've learned a lot from this piece.  Firstly, stitch is fine in its place...but its place may not be in this series.  Yesterday, I cut up the rest of this cloth, and have made two further pieces, neither of which will have stitch, I think... here is one of them.

Why no stitch?  In my view, there's no need for room for it.  The piece is fine as it is.  You may not agree, of course, but that's my feeling.  I'l be glad to hear if you agree or disagree.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Less is More...

...or how this...

became this...

It's a long story.

Several years ago, I mooched a cleaning rag from a friend of mine who is a painter in oils.  I liked the look of it, and thought that it wanted stitch; she thought I was barking, but humoured me after a bit of persuasion.  And it has lain about ever since, which, given it is oil paint, was probably Not A Bad Thing.  Raking through the box it was in (the one with the interesting hand dyed/printed/painted fabrics), I thought that its time had come... and promptly cut it in half.  I liked the balance of colours and shapes, the randomness of it, the way that it suggested sea to me, somehow, perhaps because my friend had been painting goldfish in ponds... and because Turner has painted seas in this kind of palette...  who knows?

I wanted to make this the first piece in the 'Linescapes' series I have been slowly working up to; so far, I have a lot of sketches and postcards, but no textile pieces.  I thought I would approach it the same way I have the drawings, by beginning with three curving lines.  I wanted them to be quite small, because the real interest in the piece, I thought, was the painted cloth, and I wanted them to be textured.  So, I thought I'd try taking some dark green velvet, and add some other colours to it, particularly orange, through stitching, which I knew would  add texture and interest.  When I looked at it, having added a bit of stitch, though, I knew it wasn't right.  See for yourself;
Too dark.

This looked better, though...had I had enough of it, I would have used it, and the piece would be completely different.  As it was, I hadn't, so started looking through my scrap stash.

And I found this... which, a small person in my head jumped up and down with excitement.  That person is rarely wrong, so I put some fusible on a section, cut the lines out, and added them to the piece.  And stitched it.  And added some painted polyester cloth (for once, not lutradur...), and burned it back.

Reader, I hated it.  I rotated it.  I hated it less.

So I figured that I needed to work out what was wrong with it.  I decided that there was Too Much Stitch.  And if I got rid of the stitch, or at least, some of it, I'd feel better about it, because what was important in the piece was the exploration of space...and I had filled up that space with stitch, which was a distraction from what was going on in the cloth.

Okay.  So I thought I would take out a significant amount of the stitching in the larger section to the right of the turquoise/orange strips.  And I did.  And it was interesting... I didn't remove all the stitch, leaving bits and pieces of stitched mark here and there.  Look closely at the piece and you can see the holes in the canvas where the stitches were.

Here's a close up.

And that, I thought, might well be that... but of course, we both know better, because we've seen the after picture... more tomorrow.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Still Remembering...

my friend, the late Lynn Bunis, who left me some of her (pretty huge) stash when she died some years ago.  I still have quite a bit of her fabric, but I also have one or two of her hand carved stamps.  One in particular, a leaf shape, I've never used; the leaf had too little detail for my liking.  But yesterday, while clearing up another section of the Little Green Shed, I came across it amongst my linocuts.

It occurred to me that I could easily add more detail.  What's more, I knew that Lynn would have egged me on to do just that, had she been reader, I did.

Here's the leaf itself; I liked its shape, but just felt that there was too big a print area in the leaf carefully carved out some detail, echoing the existing curves.  Then, I tried it out...

In both cases, I've layered the print, using different shades of green.  The piece above is an A4 monoprint; the piece below, a watercolour postcard using two leaf prints.  The bottom one I carved from a piece of the block that was very loose, so I cut it off and carved a leaf into its rather odd semi triangular shape.  Waste not, want not, as they say... I'm sure Lynn would approve.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

A Haiku Of A Different Colour...

I said that I'd picked two lots of fabric last time... here is the second selection.
I've written a few kitty haiku in my time... but this will be the first time I've featured cats in a haiku quilt.  I have made cat quilts before... as well as the cat hater's quilt I made for my husband (another story, for another time...), I have an occasional series called Mooncat... check him out here.

I think this particular combination of fabrics works very nicely; but I don't see it as restful, as the haiku quilts were intended to be.  It will be interesting to see how that turns out, if it will be possible to make quilts that embody stillness, or the movement towards stillness, with fabrics that are not of themselves restful.  I'm looking forward to that particular challenge.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Colour Blind?

No, I'm not.  But I am easily led astray.  Looking at one of my friend Angela Huddart's posts on Facebook, I remembered that I wanted to continue the series of visual haiku I had called 'Meditation in Purple And Gold'.  This little series I talked about a little here.  Each quilt was made to a strict set of rules (as a haiku is written), and each one had a piece of a particular fabric, a lovely commercial purple with gold metallic swirls.   Sadly, I don't have any more of it, so I can't make more of the same.  And as Robin is still without a job (anyone want a good FD?), I don't want to spend any money (I don't have it to spend...), so buying more of it was out of the question.  So, I went a-hunting.  For purples.  For one cloth with a large scale print (ish), one with a variety, and one that was purple and gold.  Easy, right?

No.  I don't have any.  Nothing like.  I found some purple batiks, and put one to one side, but the rest didn't work... though I did like the look of a dark grey/almost black fabric with random leaves on it, so that was put to one side also.  Then there was the interesting print with orange in it...and a cat fabric...and something else...they went to a different side (as it were...), but with the same intention, of making meditative quiltlets.

I thought for a minute that I would have to buy some fabric after all... but then thought about the hand dyes.  I hadn't used them in the meditation quilts, but thought that I might print on one with gold paint... and above is the final selection.  Yeah, okay, the hand dye is closer to pink than purple, in that section at least, but it works really nicely with the rest of the cloth.  So we shall see what we get.  And you're not getting to see the other set...I didn't take a photo.

And as I was coming out of the cloth studio, I spotted a large piece of purple organza:

Okay, more lilac, really, with interesting areas of blue.  There must be a metre and a half, maybe two metres in the length.  It is crying out to be hand stitched, possibly in gold thread.  I'm whining in my head even as I type, because I know what a pain that's going to be... but you know how it is.  When the fabric talks, the artist listens...and gets on with it.  Wish me luck, I'll need it.  But first, I need to iron it...

Monday, June 02, 2014

Flamin' 'Eck...

it's June...  already. I thought it was more than time for me to give the studio a Good Going Over.  Now, I'd like to say that this was a 'before' image, but it's actually a 'during'; I haven't got as far as 'After'.  A combination of sloth, heat and the feeling of being overwhelmed got to me, and they, combined, are bigger than the need to clear up, or even to get to work...

During is dreadful.  It actually didn't look quite as bad as this before I started, but I'm moving furniture as well as stuff, and it takes a lot of clear space to turn the big table at the back (that's it after the move).  It's now clear of stuff, is the table, and there is a clear path from said table to the door.  Yes, I have three easels.  Yes, I do use them all, though it's a while since I used all three together; two has been my limit for a while.  The bags are full of Stuff, there's a collapsed loom and a spinning wheel in there, too.  Whine.  I think this will take most of the week, just to sort out.

But there is an upside to sorting, clearing and tidying.  I knew, in the back of my depression fuddled brain, that I had far more lino blocks than I could lay my hands on... and look what I found...

I'd forgotten all about the wood block (front left).  The reason I wanted to turn the table is that there's a press on the far end of it.  I seem to have been making prints quite a bit, recently, so wanted to have access to the press.  I'm quietly working out what I want to do, and what I want to stop doing.  Oil painting, I think, might be one thing to go.  Whilst I love the texture of oils, I don't like the associated smells and the general complexity of it all, not to mention the long wait for the damn stuff to dry.  I had cut down on the oil paints considerably about two years ago, so gently moving them out will not be a problem, or indeed a heart wrenching thing to do.

Meanwhile, might take the blocks to the Hub tomorrow, and let the guys try out block printing and monoprinting... it would be fun.  We want to make a large floor cloth for one of the rooms...maybe printing would be a good way of adding some pattern.  (for those of you who don't know, I volunteer twice a week at a centre for adults with learning difficulties... we love trying out new things!)