Friday, 21 July 2017

Art in Norfolk in July

During July I went to see the Paul Nash exhibition at the Sainsbury Visual Art Centre in Norwich which is on until 20th August, 2017.  I knew Paul Nash was best known as a war artist, in particular I associated him with the First World War but he was also a war artist again during the Second World War.  

The exhibition starts with his brutal 1stWW landscapes and explains how he preferred to use symbolism to depict the devastation of war.  From these paintings the exhibition then moves into his earlier dream like works, still of landscapes, influenced by the poetry of William Blake and the pre-Raphaelites.  The exhibition also covers his work between the wars - during the 1920’s he suffered from depression and emotional shock as a results of his war experiences.  During these inter-war years he explored other art movements such as abstraction, surrealism and modernism. “He was a founding member of the British modernist group Unit One which included painters, sculptors and architects such as John Armstrong, Barbara Hepworth, Tristram Hillier, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Edward Wadsworth” and the exhibition includes works by some of these artists.  

Again at the start of the 2ndWW Paul Nash was appointed as a war artist and there are two large paintings in the exhibition, “Dead Sea” which depicts the vast wreckage of fighter planes at the Cowley Dump near Oxford as turbulent waves in an ocean and the second painting, which I believe is “Battle of Germany”, shows an aerial view of a town before being bombed on the lefthand side of the painting, the central section shows white spots representing parachutes coming down and then the devastation of an aerial attack on the righthand side of the painting.  The exhibition then moves to the landscape paintings that he was working on leading up to his death in 1946.

Definitely an exhibition worth going to see and made me reflect on the work I had done for the EAST “Between the Lines” exhibition - from looking at the work of artists such as Paul Nash and poets like Edmund Blunden I felt that using symbolism and landscape helped me deal with a very difficult subject.

When EAST hired the Zinc Art Centre in Ongar last year for a workshop I created this free standing, three dimensional landscape inspired by Paul Nash’s landscape, “Wood on the Downs” painted in 1929.  It’s not a finished piece but just part of a journey.  I also used his trees as a template to create this wood from layers of tracing paper - again it is not something I intend to take further.

My second visit to Norfolk in July was to Cley Next to Sea, as part of the Cley17 contemporary art exhibition, I saw this wonderful piece of work by Mike Dodd called “Stranded” constructed from tree branches and twine - I though perhaps it represented the bleached bones of a beached whale.  Again the exhibition is on till early August.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Power of Colour

In the last few weeks a new landscape has appeared on my studio floor - its where I work best when laying things out.  Its funny how things stick at the back of your mind and slowly you try things out.  I think it must have been last year I did a series of little paintings showing a yellow and grey landscape, I suppose the rapeseed fields we see around us earlier in the year.  I then tried painting with Procyon dyes onto silk organza some of the marks - like telegraph poles and fences overlaying yellow fields with misty shapes in the background.  I did several pieces varying the shades of yellow and on separate pieces tried out marks representing distant trees and shadows.  The yellow strips  of fabric came out very bright and I wasn't sure about them at first but last week I tried playing around with these along with other pieces of organza that I had painted/made marks on and the landscape below emerged.  I am usually drawn to softer more muted shades but feel the composition below is starting to work and bringing in the trees and shadow on the left of the picture makes me feel more comfortable with the yellow.

The one thing I am very happy with are these distant trees in the picture below - I have overlaid two or three layers of organza with different shapes painted on, each modifying the shapes to give the final effect.

At the moment the fabrics are not pinned down - I photograph every few days and change what I don't like.  I felt the trees were sitting too low in relation to the telegraph pole - I feel happier with that now - I also like the curve of the shadow.

This part of the landscape I think is where the action will be - just some marks to be added, probably in stitch, to show that some birds have come down in the field margins.  I feel the stitching should be kept to a minimum.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Finishing Off and a New Beginning

Over the last few weeks I have been stitching several panels inspired by still life paintings and last week I finished the latest one which you can see below.  It has been a good exercise and has shown me how I can work a piece that I designed last year which is an abstract still life.  I was very pleased with the design but just couldn't see how I would work it as a textile.

This is the abstract design which I see as a still life - a bottle, plate, cup and saucer and odd bits of crockery overlaying each other in the foreground and a landscape in the background.  I don't know when I will start it as a textile but now I know the technique/method I am going to use it's now just time.

Also last week saw the end of the EAST exhibition "Following a Thread", which has been at both Braintree Museum and Snape's Pond Gallery.  At each venue I waved a fond farewell to the two "Two Trees and Sheep" rolling landscapes - I will miss them so it is good I have photographs - the best is below.

So it is now time for a new beginning and I have started to cover a new sketchbook which you can see below.  Part of my new inspiration comes from a book of poems by Kate Innes "Flocks of Words" and which is also the first poem in the book.  I find words very important  and I love the image that is painted by this poem - of the words that describe a landscape migrating like birds with the seasons and how they return in the spring to dress the land.  I think the season of spring will probably feature quite strongly but we will see how things evolve.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Rolling Landscape Pot

Last Saturday I was giving a workshop in Lutterworth to the Market Harborough EG.  I started out at 7.30 in the morning in the cool of the day to arrive at 9.30 in the rising temperature of the day.  I had planned that we would dye our fabrics first, followed by a paper collage exercise and then after lunch we sifted through our dyeing and other fabrics to start to lay out our rolling landscapes.  As it was, I think, it was a good workshop to do on a hot day.  We had the doors open and everyone could work at their own pace and try out the Manutex for making marks and acrylic matt medium for transferring papers onto fabric.

During the week I had been working on a rolling landscape I had started probably last year.  It was good to get it out again.  At the time I thought I wouldn't finish it but the workshop gave me the momentum to have another go at it.  I have roughly decided on its final format, tacked the final pieces into place and have just got to finish the embroidery.  I have made the stand or pot as it will be now but have not yet covered it with paper so that the workshop could see how I had made it.  The only part of it I had completed was the lid.

The pot is yet to be completed as you can see at the base but the lid is finished and has three clear buttons mounted on top to make a little knob with which to open it.

I have now decided on the length of the landscape and what is happening as it gets towards the end.  The little coastal village merges into fields and trees which merge into furrowed fields. 

I have used running stitch in the background to give movement to the fields moving the running stitches over by half a stitch on each line.  I think having got so far with it now I will finish it and look forward to thinking what I will keep in it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Kantha - Still Life Panels

In the last two posts I have shown the progress I have been making with my latest panel which, as you can see below is now finished.

I have so enjoyed the stitching, it is so forgiving - I could go on and on - in fact I started another panel last week.  However, this week I must start preparations for my next workshop which is in Market Harborough so I have laid the latest panel to one side for the moment but the photos below show progress made so far.  It is mainly the bottom section that is still left to do.

All the fabrics used have been dyed apart from the inside of the bowl which was rust dyed using a synthetic fabric this time which gave a softer effect - tea is added to the rust dyeing which gives a blacker colour.  I have then put a layer of organza over the top which has a few black acrylic marks on to give depth.  The inside of the bowl is still to be stitched.

The flower are dyed silk organza with random running stitch.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Kantha Workshop - Work in Progress

At the end of my last post on the preparation for the Kantha workshop in Sevenoaks I took a photograph of a piece of work that was ready to be stitched.  I had just collaged the fabrics which were all tacked in place and I had started to work on the jug.  Below is the progress I have made this week, still more stitching to do but it is coming along. 

The whole lemon on the right has still to be stitched a has the remainder of the section down the righthand side.  The ripple stitch or Kantha stitch coming down the work on the left will continue off to the right of the halved lemons but I think I will stitch another pattern on the bottom left.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Kantha Workshop for Sevenoaks EG

Recently I have been working on preparing pieces for a workshop taking place later this month at the Sevenoaks branch of the Embroiderers' Guild.  The request I received was for a workshop based on Kantha embroidery which I have been exploring on and off for many years.  Kantha embroidery originated in Bengal and was used to decorate quilts and, basically, is a running or darning stitch.  The quilts are sometimes called ripple quilts, the effect of the quilting/running stitch.  Most Kantha quilts would have embroidered motifs, such as a wheel, flower or lotus motif and then perhaps a tree of life design in each corner, which could vary in style and then various border patterns added to the kantha edges.  The background would then be entirely quilted giving a surface that was covered in stitch which gave a textured effect to the whole piece.  All the embroidery involved in the quilting is based on running stitch and is quite incredible - it is all about the placement of the stitch and the variety of effects is fascinating.

However, in this workshop I have decided to take a different approach to show that the same running stitch variations can be used to embroider a still life. 

The sample below, that I worked some years ago, shows traditional motifs worked in running stitch and the effect of the running stitch worked to fill the background.   

This second sample shows more running stitch variations - for the sample above and this sample I have dyed the fabric and thread myself, the only difference is that for the sample above I used Procion dyes and for the sample below I used natural dyes - if my memory serves me well I believe I used cochineal.

These next samples show the same stitch variations used to create the still life subjects.

This following photo shows a detail from the sample above - this pattern has been worked entirely in running stitch and can be used as a filler or as a border pattern.

Below is another still life worked in running stitch - the fabrics are collaged first onto a layer of soft fabrics (the layers are a well washed light weight calico and a layer of muslin).  The top layer is a collage of fine fabrics such as muslin, habotai silk, silk organza, cotton scrim and sari ribbon.  The effect of the running stitch variations is to give movement and life to the picture.

Below is a detail from the sample above.

The sample below shows how a sample starts, collaging fabrics - this piece still has a long way to go, more fabrics and a lot of stitching.  

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Walks with my Sister

The theme of the book I started and have been working on during March is "Walks with my Sister".  For several years now I have enjoyed walking with friends along the country footpaths and bridleways of Essex and Suffolk and since November 2016 my sister has joined me on several of these walks.  We now regularly walk on a Tuesday and so I thought I would start a book to record the walks we have done along with photographs I have taken.

The cover is a collage of fabrics - the photograph of us as children is printed on organza overlaid onto a page from a dress making book, the little row of houses is from one of my landscapes, again, printed onto cotton, the tree is printed onto sari ribbon and the spotty and stripped fabrics scraps from my stash of fabrics.  The vintage cutwork border that I have used for the spine comes from Rose Hip and together with some hand embroidery and some words print onto organza make up the front and back cover.

On opening the cover I have placed a picture of myself taking a photograph - like my mother, I seem to be the one who has always been behind the camera.

The first walk we did together was quite short - around Marks Hall wood and footpath that are outside the gardens and arboretum.  We did this several times and is a good one to do when conditions are a bit muddy underfoot.   The map and description are printed onto fabric and are sewn into the book.

This is a photograph of my sister and opposite is a description, printed onto organza, of our second walk in Castle Hedingham which, again, is a good one to do in the winter.

These two pages show the map of the walk in Castle Hedingham printed onto cotton and opposite a picture I had been saving that I had cut out of a newspaper.  Thought it was just right.  

This is all I have done on the book so far as I have run out of fabrics to print on but a trip to Art Van Go next week will solve the problem.  We have done several more walks since including, Chalkney Woods and Great Tey, Great Bardfield and Finchingfield, Stoke-by-Nayland and Polstead and lots more are planned.  

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Making Arrangements

January has been a month of making arrangements in more than one way - earlier in the month I went to Anglesey Abbey with friends - the snowdrops were starting to peep through but the cold weather had held them back a bit.  However, whilst there I went to the secondhand book shop to find more books to rescue and found a copy of Wuthering Heights and three beautifully faded books on Roman history tied up with a ribbon.  I made this arrangement on my bedroom windowsill which includes the faded books, pottery birds by Paddy Peters, a pottery house I bought at Made in Clay last year, a wooden house by Kirsty Elson and a stone I found which had markings on it that look like trees (I have emphasised the marks using a pen).

Other arrangements I have been making are booking advertising space in Embroidery and Stitch magazines for the EAST exhibition "Following a Thread" which starts at Braintree Museum at the end of April and runs through May and June and then goes to the Pond Gallery at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, in the first week of July 2017.  And in an effort to be extra organised I also took the opportunity to have cards printed by - images below.   

I also arranged to collect a piece of work from my framer in Haughley - the piece had been framed in 2015 and had been irritating me - the balance of the picture was just not right - I feel so much better now I have made the alterations.  Picture below.

The nicest arrangements made at the beginning of February were not made by me but were made by my friend Lynne who had booked for us to go to see the National Theatre live streaming of Amadeus.  The day started with a lovely walk from White Colne - we passed the water mill into Chalkney Wood and then followed the footpaths cross country to Great Tey, stopping for coffee at the village pub.  We then walked cross country to Abraham's Farm, passed Florie's Farm and the beautiful Cucumber Hall, came up the other side of Chalkney Wood, crossed the Earls Colne road and walked along the old railway walk - a walk of just over 8 miles.  Back at Lynne's I watched as she prepared a lovely vegetarian lasagne which we tucked into with friend Ange before we then set off for the cinema to see Amadeus.  A wonderful performance only spoilt by the screen locking once - we lost 15 minutes - but we were soon reconnected.  It was a memorable day and I fell into bed exhausted.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Patchwork Inspiration

We're half way through January already and I have finished my Gee's Bend patchwork inspired knitted throw.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of working out the pattern and interpreting the design of a fabric quilt into a knitted version.  I used double knit merino wool and 4mm needles and garter stitch - I felt I needed to adjust the colours - the original colour combination was red, orange, yellow and off white - I didn't feel comfortable with the off white so substituted it with a lime yellow.  I incorporated a knitted border (4 rows of seed stitch) with the stripes rather than knit it separately and added knitted buttons - I have decided not to line it.

It has been a good exercise as besides being very therapeutic, it also allows you time to think of other things such as what direction my work will take this year.  

I would definitely have another go and one idea that sprang to mind whilst knitting this throw was a painting by Keith Vaughan.  Keith Vaughan was an artist who lived from 1939 to 1977 and who spent some of his life living in Toppesfield, a village not far from where I live.  A few years ago some of his work was featured in an exhibition at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden and amongst the exhibits of his drawings, letters, etc. was a cushion knitted by his mother.  It's funny how things stick in the back of your mind - from what I remember it was simply knitted square but was very much in the colour combination below which is one of his paintings.  I would love to have a go at doing the knitted version of this - I feel in working so closely to something somehow you get a better understand of it, plus I remembered that my friend Rene had lend me a book of his Journals.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Winter Projects

My first post for 2017 and after watching the news today I think I have probably been suffering from the same cold bug as the Queen which really likes hanging on.  However, the thing that has been keeping me going through it is my winter knitting project - the last couple of years I have found that a winter knitting project really helps to clear my mind.  I don't follow a pattern - I like the puzzle of figuring out colour, size and shape, etc. myself, although this year's project is inspired by a Gee's Bend Quilt.  Some years ago I came across a book of postcards on "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" -

"Nestled inside a sweeping curve of the Alabama River southwest of Selma, Gee's Bend is one of America's most geographically isolated communities.  It has been linked to the outside world by a single road, which remained unpaved until the late 1960's.  The residents' ancestors worked in the cotton plantations there, first as slaves, then for several generations as tenant farmers...........".

The quilts are very unique, made from discarded, worn fabrics and I just love the colour combinations and formats and shapes used reflecting the creative and individual imagination of what was a poor community. 

I haven't stuck rigidly to the design as I am knitting and the quilts were made from fabrics, by this I mean that I have altered the colour rather than the shapes/format. 

On the left is the original Gee's Bend quilt - as you can see some areas are made from patterned fabrics and the little dots are ties holding the layers together.  On the right is my  knitted version so far, lots still to do, I haven't even started the two stripes (the red and patterned stripes) on the left side of the quilt and I'm still knitting the red, orange and lime stripes on the right.  I am knitting the stripes to a certain length and then putting the stitches on stitch holders as I think I will extend the stripes a little more.  The colours haven't come out very well on the photograph but there is a greater difference in the orange and red  wools than shows.  The wool I am using is a 100% merino wool and I am knitting on 4mm needles.  Once I have finished the throw I will, I think, line it with a thin cotton wading and back it - on the other hand I might not, depends how things work out. 

On the stitching front, I have done just a small amount of work on my last rolling landscape - I think once I have completed this one I will draw a line under rolling landscapes and move on - New Year/New Projects. 

The photo below shows the stage at which I left it, the area to the right of the village still to be worked on.

The area to the right of the village shows a few fields which I am now merging into an area with trees.  I decided I would use the photograph of trees I took back in the summer, in Cornwall, where the trees that had been in someones garden had ended up standing on the beach due to coastal erosion.  I took the photograph in the bright evening sun and so also got the shadow of the trees, making it look as if there were twice as many trees as was really there.  I printed the image on silk organza and cut away anything I didn't want.  I have laid a plain white scrap of fabric under the image so you can see it.  I have pinned the image in place on the left.  

The image will help to show me where I need to put the embroidery stitches to achieve the image I want.  To give the image more depth I then rolled back the image and placed a piece of silk organza underneath that I have dyed in appropriate colours and then laid the image back down as in the pictures below.