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.