Saturday, 17 December 2011

Stitch as Story

Forget Me Not from Mew Lab on Vimeo.

Isn't this beautiful?  Would love to try and produce some short films.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Stitches & Scars

"What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"  

William Shakespeare

Adding stitch to my dry point prints - repairing,  patching faults,noticing the scratches, scars and wounds.

Suture - a stitch or row of stitches holding together the edges of a wound

External internal landscapes - mapping emotional & physical journeys, intimate, emotive, private.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Taking my camera for a walk

Whenever I need to clear my mind I take a good walk with my camera.  Inspiration is all around us, we just need to view things with a fresh eye.  It's quite wet here now which is encouraging all kinds of moss & fungi - if I were a knitwear designer I would definitely be using these to inspire my next collection

The textures are wonderful & it's got me thinking about wrapping threads around sticks.

I found them in a secret place, a dense, damp grotto...

...which eventually led to this magical view

where dragonflies danced around lily pads

and grass snakes scurried along the path

Definitely a fairy story in there somewhere!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The unintentional mark

Creating a new shellac plate with tiny marks, rather like the traditional way of transferring an embroidery design with chalk.  It's a SLOW process but I enjoy the repetition & the rhythm of push, move a little, push, move a little....  On completion I found that I'd actually pushed a little too hard & managed to pierce the plate completely, leaving lovely unintentional marks on the paper below,

which got me thinking about accidental or unintentional marks, a theme for the future I think.

I'm not completely happy with the way the plate printed, I really need to run it through a press but I do like the way the ink has pooled in certain places & the piercings now resemble unpicked stitches which is what I'd hoped -

Monday, 28 November 2011

Giving Thanks in San Francisco

I've just been lucky enough to spend 4 days in San Francisco over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I managed to escape the madness of the city for a couple of hours & wander around MOMA which had an interesting exhibition of the drawings of sculptor Richard Serra...

There is a beauty in the simplicity of graphite on paper & strength in repetition...

The visual power of repeated forms is something I've been investigating in my own work as I struggle to create large art pieces.  I realise that often this means my work suffers in exhibitions when hung alongside larger works so I'm exploring the idea of repetition & have a few ideas I want to play with. 

I was also excited to see a piece by Agnes Martin, I've been looking at her work alot lately, seduced by the apparent simplicity of her line.  The work has wonderful texture & again the quality of mark making is beautiful.

Agnes Martin was quite a philospher too & I have this quote on my studio wall to keep me on my own path -

'Don't worry what others think, just make what you have to, what's calling to be made. You will find your voice this way.'

Monday, 21 November 2011

Little Things

Trials & tests ....

using ideas of 'reveal & conceal' with the small silk prints

Thursday, 10 November 2011

From Sketch to Print

My printmaking course doesn't resume until after Christmas so I'm spending some time evaluating what I've learnt & assessing how I can use these new skills in my own practice.

I often work outdoors, I love to take my sketchbook & camera for a walk, stopping from time to time to draw, collect and simply observe.  Sometimes I leave all art materials behind and challenge myself to use only what I find around me - mud for paint, sticks & feathers for brush, discarded envelopes, plastics or even tree bark for paper.  It's one of the ways I connect with my local environment but this has been hard in America since everywhere is kept so clean, tidy & landscaped!  

This page from my sketchbook is a collection of tiny drawings made in the field with a fine liner, berry juice & mud. 

I prepared some small shellac plates, etching my usual wirey drawings onto the surface with various sharp tools ...

In the printmaking studio we use oil based inks but this doesn't sit well with my environmental concerns so I tried acrylic paint - it's all I have on hand anyway!  I tried to wipe away as much of the surface paint as possible so that the print was clean but that's much harder with acrylics, the paint dries too quickly. 

The results vary....I added a retarder to the paint which helped, water colour paper gave crisper results.  A bit of creative thinking turned my pasta maker into a make shift roller printer! 

Printing on parchment paper gives a suggestion of possible layering -

I then tried printing directly on to silk,  I like the delicacy of these...

What I really love is the used shellac plates & the way the black paint has filled the etched lines, funny how our tools become just as beautiful as the work created...

I can now see where some of my lines were not deep enough so I'll work further on these and have another print session when I've purchased some water based inks.

Not sure how I'm going to mix this work with my textiles yet but I like the quality of line that this technique provides so I shall continue with my samples & I'll probably use the best of the prints to make some cards.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Looking for Connections

It's been a long time since I've blogged so it feels good to be back in the world wide web.  The last 6 months have seen big changes for me & my family - at the end of July we moved to the Pacific Northwest of America so my Shared Threads Studio has been packed, shipped & finally reinstated in a spare bedroom of our new home. 

I've spent the first 3 months of our adventure feeling rather disconnected, struggling to find any meaningful relationship with this huge country.  I'm determined to return home with new skills so I've been doing a printmaking course this last 8 weeks which has been great fun & has helped me connect with fellow artists.

I've done rudimentary printmaking before, but always as a method of applying surface pattern to cloth rather than as an art form in itself so it's been great to learn some new techniques such as intaglio & paper lithography.  We started off with monoprinting, using found objects on a plexi plate -

You can't see from the photos but after running the plate through the press the paper became really embossed which adds a third dimension to the print. 

We also did collographs which I loved, this is a detail of one of the plates, the rough texture in the corner is egg shell....

and a detail of the print....

Of course it's having the large etching press which allows you to pick up so much detail - I really want a press now! 

The course has been an interesting exercise for me, it's helped cement some  ideas for my textile work and has given me another mark making tool.  The most valuable part was actually trying techniques which just didn't work for me because they don't suit my way of viewing the world - reductive lino prints was one.  My brain just could not cope with working backwards & having to plan which bits of the lino to cut first!  So much as I would love to be the next Angie Lewin, 'it ain't gonna happen!'  That's probably why I'm so attracted to her work (and Mark Herald's for that matter) - I know I could never produce anything even close to it, it's just not how I 'see' things.  I'm much more spontaneous & free in my mark making so I need to use techniques which capture that.  I also found that using the lino tools aggravated an old tendon injury in my hand so I'll just have to buy one of these beautiful prints........Angie Lewin at her best,

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Fast & Furious

Is how I'm working at the moment!  I love the flexibility of working freelance but it does mean that my practice shifts from calm to chaos virtually overnight when I'm engaged on a new project.  I'm starting some Creative Partnership work after half term with a lovely Primary School which I know will be really rewarding but it does require alot of preparation.  I'm also doing a solo exhibition in April which although is only in my local library, I'm more nervous than ever because I know that my family will visit and also alot of my 'non arty' friends, some of whom have never seen my work.  So, all hands to the sewing machine!

I'm not a quilter but I do enjoy working out of my comfort zone sometimes so I'm persevering with the wall hangings I started a while ago.  I've applied motifs with bondaweb....

Free machined & added paint.....

This one is almost finished, just needs the binding added.....

I'm not sure how I feel about this work.  On the one hand I certainly think a larger format has more visual power than some of my smaller pieces, yet for me it's too contrived.  I'm amazed that it has got this far actually since I don't have a good track record with larger pieces; I normally make them, don't like them, chop them up and reassemble into smaller pieces!  I need to get over this fear of working large & figure out what the barrier is.  I've recently joined the Slow Textiles group spear headed by Emma Neuberg & she's encouraging me to be less hesitant about 'going large' but I'm not sure that a quilt format is the right route for me.  Emma has mentioned the delicacy of my stitching & suggested I work with sheer fabrics which I guess is the opposite of the wall hanging I've just created!  Oh well, it's good to stretch yourself & try new techniques.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Stitched Illustration

I'm working on some educational materials at the moment, highlighting conservation issues through fun  illustrations.  As a student I did alot of illustration using free machine embroidery on paper but then, as is often the way, real life took over and I took a different path with my textiles.  I've had such fun doing this work though; I loved picking up a pencil, painting and being free with my machine, all whilst listening to very loud music! They're going into my local library along with my other textile work in April & hopefully visitors will enjoy them.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

In shock!

I'm in shock!  I'm working on 3 wallhangings at the moment, each approx 50cm wide by 150cm drop.  The last time I did hangings I used an old sheet which I hand dyed as the backing and some curtain interlining which was a remnant from my soft furnishing days as the wadding.  Admittedly the finished hangings weighed a ton & I did have difficulty getting them under my machine but they looked great.  I thought this time I'd do the job 'properly' and this morning popped to a quilting shop to buy wadding and since I didn't have a sheet knocking about I thought I'd treat myself to calico for the backing.  I had £20 in my purse....haha....£44 it cost me!  I don't think I spend that much on my recycled fabric all year!  And it's not even as if any of that £44 cloth will be seen!

I don't think I can bring myself to use the calico.  I promptly went next door to a charity shop and bought a king size cotton sheet for £1.50 which is more than enough to back the 3 hangings.  How do people afford to quilt as a hobby?  This is not how the tradition was born...the Gees Bend quilters had nothing but worn work clothes and look at the stunning quilts they produced.  I feel like I compromised my values in my haste to finish my work & that doesn't sit well with me, naughty Madame Jacqueline!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Finding a Rhythm

It's now been a year since I made the decision to eschew all synthetic dyes, electing to work only with natural dye materials and as far as possible to only use plant stuff foraged from my local environment.  It has been a difficult but wonderful venture....weaning myself off Procion dyes proved extremely challenging and I just had to go 'cold turkey' in the end!  The greatest change has been in the rhythm of my working; I've had to surrender to nature and the seasons, dyeing fabric like a lunatic in the summer when there was a wealth of plant material to harvest,  whilst this winter I've withdrawn to my studio to pursue sketchbook work keenly waiting for Spring.

I've missed having a dye pot on the stove so a few days ago I tried bundling up a bunch of flowers which were sat wilting on a shelf, wrapped them in a piece of old sheet and let them simmer for a while.  The piece is quite pretty with some nice markings.....
The pink areas are from some dried flowers which must have had a synthetic dye sprayed on....I'm not worried about that, I was recycling and reusing which was the most important part of the process.

I've also produced another length of rust dyed fabric, this time combined with tannin which has turned the cloth a beautiful cool, bluey grey.....I just love this piece..... fact I think I love it so much I won't be able to cut it up.  This is a problem since I dyed it to complete a large wall hanging I'm working on.  I am becoming more and more precious about these dyed lengths of never used to bother me when I dyed synthetically, I suppose I knew I could easily replicate the colour and in no time at all.  With natural dyes however I may spend weeks on one piece of cloth, slowly allowing the colours to reveal themselves and the results are so intricate and delicate that I can hardly bare to touch them afterwards.  It makes me wonder where my practice is heading.

House of Chanel Documentary...wonderful!

This is a must watch for anyone interested in Haute's a lovely, funny look at what really happens behind the scenes at the House of Chanel. Be warned though, you will want to watch the whole of the series in one go, it's very addictive!  I now wish to be addressed as 'Madame Jacqueline' like one of the couturiers!!

Monday, 31 January 2011

Framing Dilemmas!

Finding suitable, affordable framing options for my work is a continual headache!  I'm working on some 'journey' pieces which are long & thin but have to be shown landscape like this one below....colours are a bit odd by the way because I've been playing around in Picasa!

Typically I've made it a size which won't fit into any off the shelf frame comfortably so I've been costing up having it custom framed.  Trouble is, since I use all recycled materials and am now even foraging for colour it kind of goes against the grain to buy anything new!  Equally though I am aware that good framing can really enhance a piece and the work I'm doing at the moment is so delicate & fragile that it would look lost if not framed.  In future though I think I will purchase the frame first so I know what size to work to....hate being constrained like that though! 

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


It's been so cold here over the Christmas period that I've wished I could spin myself a little cocoon to crawl inside and keep warm until Spring.  As always, my mood effects the type of work I produce so I've been investigating wrappings, pods, protective shells and playing around with free machining fragments of cloth to produce fairly rigid structures....

These are large enough to wear as a decorative cuff but I'd like to try something much larger & perhaps try wrapping them around different natural forms....tree trunks etc.  Crazy I know but I'm loving my textiles in the natural environment at the moment....they look 'at home' there.
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