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.....

.....in 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 cloth...it 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 Couture.....it'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!!
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