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.        

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Stitch in Time

With more workshops coming up and, as a member of EAST, a new exhibition coming up next year, I have been pressing on with the altered book on Emily Dickinson and putting a few finishing stitches to a landscape that I have been working on over the last few months.  Today we have had really good light for taking photographs so have taken the opportunity to do three posts in one day!!

Although this is a page I have photographed before I couldn't resist sprinkling some of the flowers that have dropped from the wisteria that covers the back of our house. 

These two pages continue the theme of Emily's herbarium/domestic duties but form a nice link to the fact that Emily often referred to herself as Daisy especially when writing to Samuel Bowles.  Again I have painted the pages with white acrylic, applied a layer of dress tissue and again applied another thin wash of white acrylic.  The tissue, as you can see, has provided an opportunity to write a description of an ox-eyed daisy.  I have then printed some writing from a print block onto calico and added a scrap of organza that has part of a landscape printed on it.  Over all of this I have placed a layer of organza onto which I have drawn and painted (with a waterproof pen and water colour paints) a daisy.  On the righthand side, I have prepared the page in a similar way but underneath the organza is a handwritten recipe for marmalade I found written on a scrap of paper inside an old recipe book I found in a junk shop.

On this page I have made another fabric envelope which is made from silk organza so that you can see the collaged contents and on the opposite page a chance find of some words referring to a hedge - could it be the hedge between Emily and Susan!

This is a close up of the envelope and contents - the house is printed on paper and applied to a piece of torn postcard behind which is a poem printed on fabric, a scrap of dotty fabric, some words torn from a book referring to dress and a tiny scrap from a hand written letter sent to me by my friend Rene.  It was very fiddly making the envelope with organza but one of its good qualities is that it holds a fold pressed with the heat of your fingers.

This is the landscape I have been working on - the last time I photographed it it didn't have the layer of organza overlaid from the left hand side up to the tree - I have also added a small piece on the far right.  I felt that besides adding depth to the picture it has clearly shifted the focal point to the right to that of the little house, rather than the tree.  There will be an additional layer of paper laid under the bottom edge of some printed black lines and then the whole thing will be mounted onto a canvas backing before being framed.

Finally I have been meaning to finish this little book cover that I made months ago - I was thinking that it would make a nice little sketch book/note book/herbarium on the plants I have growing in my garden and I suppose this would be a good time of year to start!!

Wicken Fen

Another wonderful place to visit for walking and taking photographs of landscape for inspiration is Wicken Fen Nature Reserve which we visited last Saturday.  The weather was not too warm which sometimes I find better for walking.  The colours and textures are just so lovely and for a short time we sat in a hide which, as we looked out, formed a frame for a beautiful view.

Kantha Quilting

During May I gave two half day workshops on Kantha quilting at Chevington to a group called 4S.  It was thought that as this form of hand quilting is very time consuming, it would be better to split the workshop into two half days so that participants could experiment with the concept of creating quilted borders, motifs and background patterns using running stitch.  No other stitch is used in this form of quilting, it is all about where you place the stitch, whether the stitch is placed directly under the stitch in the previous row or it is offset to give a stagger effect, the distance between the rows, whether close or far apart depending, whether you are quilting a background or a motif.  

I have been working on various samples and panels on and off for the last sixteen years and many of the patterns and motifs appear in my work alongside other techniques.  A few samples are below.

These two samples are very traditional, the main motif in the top picture is a tree of life. For both samples I have dyed the fabric and the thread, for the top sample I have used Procyon fibre reactive dyes and for the bottom sample I have used natural dyes.  As you can see the colour is much softer.

This cushion panel has been stitched onto plain calico using silk threads from Mulberry Silks.

I find it quite fascinating how you can transform a plane piece of calico fabric purely with hand stitching.

Here I have incorporated a small amount of appliqué with the Kantha stitching.  I have created the effect of a glass vase by using very watered down dye onto habotai silk and transferring text from an old newspaper using a PVA medium.