Monday, 17 October 2016

Book Rescue - Doctor Thorne

Whilst at Trellisk in Cornwall I visited the secondhand bookshop and was delighted to find a copy of "Doctor Thorne" by Anthony Trollope - I think the particular copy I found was printed in the late 1940's/early 1950's and it has a torn spine, mainly due to the binding drying out.  Having seen the three part television adaptation this year, which starred Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne, Rebecca Front as Lady Arabella Gresham and I believe Ian McShane played Roger Scatcherd, I had to buy the book and am looking forward to reading it.  However, before that pleasure I thought I should rescue it from deteriorating any further and recover it.   This week I am giving a talk and workshop at the Waveney Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild and the workshop is on Altered Books but I thought if participants did not want to alter the pages in any way, they could just cover an old book and restore it for many more years of use.

I have used lots of scraps of vintage fabrics, net and block printed textiles - I find using scraps which may be very random in shape helps to build an interesting collage, otherwise the temptation is to use lots of strips or regular shaped pieces which gives a more deliberate effect.  I have used a print block to print written script onto organza and then added a quote from the book in hand stitching. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Cornish Delights

I have been in Cornwall for the last week or so - staying at the usual apartment in Praa Sands which has a lovely sea view.  Each evening I walk along the beach and since our last visit the tree pictured below, which was once in the garden above, has descended to the sand through coastal erosion.  It was a perfect, warm, late summers evening and the light was just right.

The photo below is looking out from Praa Sands beach across to Rinsey Head - the sea an incredible blue in the evening sun.

I had packed my latest Rolling Landscape/Seascape which I had laid out before coming down and the subject of coastal erosion and the little copy of a painting by Samuel John Peploe (sent to me by Rene) have fired my imagination and this is the piece so far.

Then last Wednesday I visited Trellisk, a National Trust property that overlooks the Fal River (on the road that leads to the King Harry Ferry), and discovered that the Antiques Road Show would be recording there the following day.  I made a great effort to be up bright and early as the event started at 9.30 and went on to 7 pm - I had a really interesting day watching the BBC crew setting up the selected items, listening to all the interviews, seeing all the experts and discovering a new artist, namely Adrian Paul Allinson.  A lady had brought along two paintings she had inherited and which she knew nothing about.  The two paintings are below - I really like both of them and look forward to researching the artist.

One of the other interviews I watched was with Henry Sandon and the lady who had owned Ozzie the owl which she sold for £17,000.  The photograph is not of the original owl but is a copy she had made.


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

It's All About the Birds

A couple of weeks ago I went to Anglesey Abbey where there is, to my delight, a secondhand book shop and where I found this lovely book titled "The Charm of Birds" by Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Edward Grey, first published in 1927.  It has been written from the point of view of an amateur bird watcher who has had great pleasure observing birds - it reminded me of my friend Lynne who is very good at recognised birds and bird songs when we are out walking.

Well, of course, having bought the book I felt I had to cover it as it had a rather dowdy beige cover but this time I have not altered the pages.  I hope it will now have a new lease of life rescued from the shelf of the secondhand book shop.  As you can see, the new cover is not yet finished - the image may seem a little fuzzy as I have put a layer of net over the collage of fabrics and papers.

Then last weekend whilst in Saffron Walden my friend Rene and I came across the new bookshop called Hart's Books and whilst peering in the window I noticed a book titled "Grief is the thing with feathers" by Max Porter which instantly reminded me of the poem by Emily Dickinson - Hope is the thing with feathers.  I sat and read it from cover to cover on Sunday morning - it'a an easy read about a man whose wife has died and the crow that visits him. 

This in turn spurred me on to finish the altered book I have been making about Emily Dickinson and her life - I had already embroidered the poem "Hope is the thing with feathers" on the cover and I have been applying a little fabric bird to some of the pages.  She wrote a lot of poems about birds and, as such, I tend to associate birds with her.
One thing I learnt in my research was that she very much admired the Bronte sisters and especially the novel "Jane Eyre" and what a wonderful surprise when my friend Corinne gave me a postage stamp with a picture of Charlotte Bronte on it.  I thought it was just perfect for this page - on the opposite page is an unusual shaped envelope that I made with little snippets on - maybe one of her many letters to Susan. 

After the section on the Herbarium that Emily kept, I embroidered a poem by Emily on silk organza.  It is about how the daisy follow the sun - she often referred to herself as Daisy and the sun is thought to be Samuel Bowles.

Below is a closer image so hopefully you can see the stitching more clearly.

This is one of my favourite pages - a bodice pattern, half in tissue and half in parcel paper with a line from one of Emily's poem around the neckline and some liberty bodice buttons.

These are not all the pages but I will add more when I can get outside to take photographs in natural light.

My last bird event happened yesterday when I was walking at Mark Hall Gardens - I love walking there, it is so peaceful and I didn't see a single person in the gardens.  However, I did come across the peacock and I took this photo that really made me smile.  I wondered if he was lost!! sitting on the sign post.  He was very good and turned his head so that I could take this lovely photograph of him against the foliage - it's funny how the leaves have come out a bluish green as if he is reflecting his colour all around him. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Changing Landscapes

It has been a few weeks since I have updated my blog but since Yorkshire I have had a wonderfully creative time starting with a weekend with EAST at the Zinc Factory in Chipping Ongar, visiting the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the Tate Modern (and watched the BBC Imagine programme about her which was on the day after), visited the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham, had a creative day with the Billericay Girls, made progress on my altered book about Emily Dickinson, visited Anglesey Abbey and visited Gallery in the Garden where I purchased a picture.  All very exciting.

The creative weekend with the members of EAST at the Zinc Factory in Chipping Ongar, which we hired from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, was I thought, very successful.  The facilities are excellent, staff very helpful and we had plenty of space, plus we had decided to invite Diana Bates to get us inspired and send us off in a different direction.  In all there were fifteen of us, we each had our own en suite bedrooms and we decided that as the room allocated to us for dining was so big we would have the whole workshop and food all in the one room.  We had the use of a small kitchen, photocopying facilities and all our meals provided - so no cooking, no interruptions - the mobile phone signal was very poor - which was also good - just experiment, create, eat, sleep and shower.

We started the Friday evening really with some loosening up exercises to get us relaxed and detach our minds from issues at home which is a really good idea.  We did two exercises drawing circles and straight lines, cutting out shapes, bringing in colour and construction.  It really didn't matter what you did but it was interesting afterwards looking at the different approaches to the exercises.  All of this we put to one side the following day as we started to look at our source material and blow up, isolate, draw, cut and layer.

The two experimental pieces that resulted for me are still landscape based but are free standing, 3 dimensional, although it is difficult to see this on the photographs.  They are constructed in paper at this stage - they will obviously evolve further as I solve the technical and material issues.  My starting point was some photographs I had taken at Anglesey Abbey in early spring while the trees were still bare, some photographs I had taken a year or two ago in Cornwall and a painting by Paul Nash titled Wood on the Downs 1929.

I started by blowing up one of my photos to A4 size and cutting it into random shapes.  Then I tore lots of strips of different papers, some heavy, some fine, from magazines, sketchbooks, etc. adding colour and piling up these strips and sewing them together.  I repeated this several times and started to place them together.  

I then traced some shapes from my photographs, tore round them, removed some, overlaid others and gradually I could see a landscape emerge.

I had a longer piece of paper at the bottom of the papers and wanting to get it out of the way, so I folded it into a triangle and then I realised the piece could stand on its own.

The next day I decided to cut out a small wood in tracing paper - I love the transparency as if they are ghost trees that have been cut down and reminding me of what was once there.  I repeated the tearing, layering and stitching of papers and this time, Lorna who was sitting opposite me, offered me some of her beautiful Japanese papers some of which have little bits of gold foil in them.   

I am always amazed when something like this evolves, it was so unexpected and I think they have great potential. 

It was amazing how the time flew by and how tired we all were - most of us worked to about 8 or 9 o'clock. Some were very good and went for an early morning walk before we started work, although I have to say the Zinc Factory is near a busy roundabout so there isn't any nice park or bridleway to walk along.  The workshop finished at 4 o'clock on the Sunday afternoon before which we had a group crit. - the results were wonderfully varied as were the subjects. 

Since returning home I have been determined to get on with my latest landscape I had been working on before the Zinc weekend.  What is nice is that I took a photograph of the piece quite early on when I had selected the fabrics and started placing and layering the fabrics.  

Gradually it has evolved and I think the final stitch has been added.

Finally, before I did the summer school in Yorkshire I prepared yet another landscape this time inspired by a painting by the Scottish artist Samuel John Peploe which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph and my friend Rene had sent me the cutting.  Samuel John Peploe R.S.A. lived from 1871 to 1935 and the particular painting was of Iona Abbey.  This time all the fabrics I selected were habotai silk and again I had dyed these fabrics in shades of blue and yellow.  I could see a small inlet or bay right to the left of the piece and could see that perhaps there were a few cottages or a coastal village, the scene moves inland the further to the right it goes.  Again I have collaged and layered pieces of fabric which could be quite long in size to small little scraps.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Yorkshire and the Humber Region Residential Summer School at Bishop Burton College

On Friday 15th July I set off from North Essex for Bishop Burton College in Bishop Burton in Beverley, Yorkshire, to give a summer school along with three other tutors - Jan Dowson, Pippa Foulds and Maggie Smith.   It was a smooth and uneventful journey, the trusty old satnav got me to my destination where I was met by Pauline Heywood who had booked me for a workshop on Rolling Landscapes.  Within the grounds of the college is an art and design block and I had been allocated one of the upstair studios with water supply as we would be dyeing fabrics.  The whole site at Bishop Burton College is well laid out and beautifully maintained, our accommodation was spotless, food good and staff helpful.

The first session of the summer school was on the Friday evening and we started by dyeing a variety of fabrics using procion dyes and Manutex as a resist, bearing in mind design source material as a guide.  Saturday morning sessions saw printing on fabrics and paper and distressing/crumpling papers such as wax paper and magazine papers.  Most of the afternoon was spent sifting through results and selecting fabrics and papers for the collaging, adjusting, photographing and exploration of different combinations.  Once everything was pinned and then tacked details such as trees and other features were explored and placed.  Stitches are kept very simple either to hold things in place or to add further detail.

It was lovely to see the variety of results gradually appear from Monet like landscapes to industrial landscapes, the colour combinations from subtle to vibrant - it is great to have the three days to see the landscapes evolve.  

We discussed finishing and construction on Sunday so that each landscape could be completed at leisure at home.  I hope you enjoy the photographs below.
















Sunday, 19 June 2016

Landmark Gallery Teddington - Between the Lines exhibition

This week the EAST exhibition "Between the Lines"  has been set up at the Landmark Gallery in Teddington which will be it's last venue since being launched at the Knitting and Stithing Show in 2014.  It is on until Sunday July 10th and for opening times and other information the website is   On Tuesday I went along with June, Liz and Susan to set up and then yesterday I ran a workshop at the Landmark entitled "Lines of Communication" which linked with techniques used for some of the pieces in the exhibition.  There is a very nice, well equipped, well lit, working studio space at the Landmark Gallery and we had nine students who had booked to do the workshop.

We started the day loosening up with some printing using either blocks I had made and some bought blocks and printed on a variety of paper and fabrics using archival inks and acrylic paints.  We then went on to scrunching and distressing various paper such as magazines, wrapping papers and wax paper.  I had also prepared some samples of techniques that we wouldn't have time for and one was transferring paper text to fabric using varnish and the other was printing photographic images onto fabric. 

June, who was my gofer for the day, did an excellent job of keeping me supplied with coffee and washing up paint pots and brushes. With all the messy activities cleared out of the way, after lunch each student set about sifting through their samples, selecting and deselecting elements, arranging and layering, pinning ready for stitching.  I demonstrated how hand stitched words could be added either directly onto a piece of work or onto silk organza which could then be applied over the top of other elements.  I had also taken along templates of envelopes that could be drawn out and cut out from fabric, again applying stitch and little collaged elements to make an individual piece of work. 

Below are some of the pieces that were started at the workshop.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Wissington to Assington - Suffolk Open Studios

A few weeks ago I picked up a catalogue for Suffolk Open Studios and my friend Lynne suggested we visit a few artists and go for a nice walk at the same time.  We went on the Sunday of the first open studio weekend 4/5th June - we both picked out an artist we wanted to visit plus a third artist if there was time - Lynne chose Brin Edwards and I chose Anne Townshend - and just to make the day complete the weather was glorious.  

We decided that we would drive to Wissington first to see Anne Townshed, a linocut printmaker whose main subject is the Suffolk landscape.  Her beautiful victorian cottage and garden was just perfect in the June sunshine and inside every bit of wall space was hung with Anne's landscape prints.  Anne showed us her studio and talked us through her method of working, preferring to paint the landscape first rather than work from a photograph.  I think then she copies the painting onto a transparency and I presume cuts round the shapes which she can then place on the lino thereby able to cut with greater accuracy.   I preferred the simpler lines and couldn't resist one of her landscapes that she had printed four times, first laying down different papers, such as bits of coloured tissue, newsprint, map and I think the inside of an envelope.  I think there is a technical term for this but I can't remember it at the moment.

Anne had put out some elderflower presse for visitors to her studio and we couldn't resist sitting in her garden admiring the view and her garden and soaking up the sun.  Of course, I would have taken photographs had I not found that the battery in my camera needed recharging!!

However, we then pressed on and drove to Brin Edward's studio in Assington.   Again, Assington is a very pretty village and we found Brin's cottage down a narrow lane at the end of a row of gorgeous thatched terrace houses and brick cottages.  Brin paints wildlife and landscapes mainly in oils and has built a wonderful studio in his back garden from straw bales.  Most of his painting were of birds - he explained that he did a lot of wildlife illustration work for publishers which tends to be very precise and that the painting on show were done in a freer, more personal style that he had developed.  He also said that he ran painting workshop from his studio and had a few places left later in the year.  

We also chatted to him about his fabulous studio which he built himself after going on a course to learn how to shape and construct an oval shaped studio with two straight sides from straw bales which were then plastered inside and out.  He said the studio was built on a foundation of old car tyres, he had two sets of double doors opposite each other so in the summer you could have a nice cool through breeze - he said the studio was cool in summer and retained the heat in winter.  

Having had such a wonderful time visiting these two artists we thought we should start our walk which was cross country from Assington to Little Cornard onto Great Cornard to visit the studio of Roger Duke, a ceramicist.  The walk from Assington to Great Cornard was about five miles which was so lovely across fields, quiet country lanes, past quaint cottages and colourful gardens and we even found a weir and a small nature reserve but, alas, we could not find a route to get to Great Cornard in time to visit Roger Duke's studio (studio visiting times are between 11 and 5).  So before we turned round and started our walk back we took a breather and sat by the weir to watch the wildlife.