Category Archives: Textiles

The Fabric of My Life

I have been busy giving my studio the mother of all clear-outs.  This has culminated in one particularly long over-due task.

My love of colour and texture in all it’s many forms has resulted in a personal collection of assorted  ‘treasures’ that I have re-discovered in the course of my autumnal ‘spring’ clean.  These items range from numerous pieces of fabric from favourite bits of  clothing; wrapping present ribbons; beach finds; assorted string bags from supermarket-wrapped fruit; to patchwork scraps, sample fabric strips, netting, silks, gauzes, tapestry wools and buttons, that have been randomly squirreled away in drawer recesses or the bottom corners of storage boxes, now seeing the light of day from an astonishing array of plastic bags in varying stages of disintegration.

These seemingly trivial gems have all now been carefully sorted out and relegated to a category according to their colour.   For example, straw strands salvaged from flower arrangements and hessian binding from upholstery have been placed in the ‘neutral brown’ box; scraps from the hem of wedding dress silk in the ‘white’ box; I even have a box just for checquered and striped material such as ancient scarves I no longer wear, gingham shirts and the Designer Guild duvet cover my daughter used to have on her bed eons ago.

I can’t tell you what a thrill it gives me to catch a glimpse of these jewel-like colours in their new, see-through boxes, now neatly stacked up in my studio.  This rainbow represents not only a renewed satisfaction I experience as an artist in the harmonics of colour and texture but also as a very tangible, material memory of specific moments in my own life.

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Memories of Mac

Here is the diptych that finally became the ‘Mac Memory Boards’.

Memory Board 1, (left) ‘Special Moments with Mac‘, in greens and browns – not to say, liver chestnut colours – and represents his ‘earthly’ existence.  These are the everyday moments in our life with Mac that we recorded with masses of photos.

Memory Board 2, (right) ‘Mac in Heaven‘, is a more fanciful representation of Mac enjoying his spiritual life after his time with us on earth, hence the more ethereal colours.  The white horse could be mistaken for a figure carved into a chalky hillside, but depicts the void his body left behind when he had gone.

(the 2 boards are the same size, not like in the photos! oops.)

Each ‘board’ was created using a variety of media ranging mostly from fabric cut-outs to layered, machine stitched images, and a range of contact sheets I made up using photos taken from old albums as well as pictures of some of the recent paintings of Mac I had done – and discarded.  Some of the pictures are upside down, some at wonky angles and some of the contact sheets (mostly in the ‘after life’ board) were entirely made from pictures which I had digitally altered in my iphone software – see ‘The Archive Pictures’ for some of the earlier versions.

Going along with my recent theme of creating ‘posters’ of current projects, I also decided to give the image a title and made a poster of the process, entitled ‘Memory Boards’ stating the year he was born and the year he died, and incorporated it into the left hand part of the diptych.

Here are some close-up images of the assemblage, in process:

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Filed under Art Works, my sketchbook pages, Textiles

Stitching and Book Binding

Machine free-stitching workshop

This year, through unexpected circumstances, I found myself in the fortunate position of being a visitor to Cornwall Open Studios rather than a participant.  I attended 2 workshops, both involving stitching of some sort: Alison Mahoney’s Printmaking and Bookbinding day course and Sandra Hardy’s Machine Embroidery 2 hour session where I learned a lot from both workshops (see attached pics).  As well as the workshops, I visited many individual artists’ studios as well as shared venues.  Here are the 7 artists I found most memorable (the numbers in brackets correspond to their listing in the catalogue and not their age!)

Simple screen printing and book binding workshop.

  • Elaine Turnbull(77) exuberant paintings, full of human emotions, some playful and humorous, others subtle and sobering,

    fabric pieces

    made up sections with screen printed paper

    but all full of highly original texture, rhythm and colour.

  • Paul Wadsworth (165) for his expansive acrylic / oil canvases, heavily textured and full of joy.
  • Esther Connon (101) makes hand bound and screen printed books with narrative based illustrations of rare quality.
  • Susanna Bauer, (159) for her delicate but exquisitely sculpted and stitched leaves.
  • Rebecca Ball (23) produces one-off pieces of stitched paper map collages and embroidered birds in migration.
  • Daniel Cole (25) is obviously a lover of nature producing small oil paintings and sketch books full of bird studies.
  • Nina Ducker (40) wall hung ceramic pieces often in multiples, inspired by sea and landscape.  A ceramicist  with a painter’s sensibility!

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Quilt of Many Colours

arranging pieces ready for machining

made-up border strips

I’ve done it!

The cot quilt is now almost ready for the new arrival.  I have made a border using scraps left over from the hexagon ‘stars’ (see Up-cycled History and Hexagonal Biscuits!).  Surprised at how much material I had left over.

Apart from the border pieces which I machined, the quilt has all been sewn together by hand.  I just have a few evenings of stitching left to do to ensure the ‘sandwich’ of quilt top, wadding and backing stay together.   For the record, it measures 62″ x 40″ (156cm x 102cm approx.). Begun back in February, it has taken about 3 months of evenings to complete, easier as the days became longer and the light increased.  My finger is as callused as a finger-picking guitar player but worth every minute.

Now I can’t wait to give it to the new parents.  I do hope they like it……..

close-up detail

The finished article!

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Hexagonal Biscuits!

biscuits posing as quilt shapes

Is it not strange that when you concentrate your attention on something for long enough, suddenly you discover things around you that intimately relate to the very focus of your attention?  Then you begin to wonder if there is anything else going on in these so-called, ‘co-incidences’.

Take the quilt I am making for my grandchild-to-be.  I did not make a conscious decision to make it out of a grid system based on a hexagonal pattern.  It was just that this shape was the one that presented itself to me when I began to think about it and seemed like a good one to get going with.  I bought a packet of biscuits the other day (Miller’s Damsels, Three Seeds), not realising that these thin wafers were not only hexagonal in shape but they are also EXACTLY the same size as the hexagonal template shapes for my quilt ‘stars’.  The picture on the packet showed a round biscuit so there was no external hint that these artisan wafers were hexagonal.  It begs the question, why would anyone make six-sided biscuits?  Then, when you think about it, it makes perfect economic sense to make hexagonal biscuits as opposed to the more usual round ones as there is less wastage, like the cells of a honey comb, they all fit together perfectly.  Food imitating nature?

By this stage, I had this nagging intuition that there was a message for me here somewhere, and started to explore the meanings associated with the number 6.  So I decided to meditated on it and immediately found my mother chuckling into my left ear, (my right lug-hole being occupied with the cat sitting on my right shoulder and purring loudly), and uttering the words, “packet of fags!”  Of course, Player’s Number 6 for all of you who might remember as far back as those bad old days when everyone smoked…my father sometimes smoked these, as I think they were standard Naval rations at the time.  Thanks Ma!

The other thing that kept surfacing in my mind was the forthcoming birth of my grandchild.   Baby Carter is due in June.  Now would it not be extraordinary if the baby arrived on the 6th day of the 6th month? (add these two numbers and you get the year).  It would be following a line of family tradition and be the sandwich between my mother who was born on the 5th day of the 5th month, and my daughter (the mother-to-be) who was born on the 7th day of the 7th month.  (I am the odd one out being born on the 19th day of the 12th month which doesn’t fit in anywhere!).

All this just happens to conveniently coincide with a fascinating book about crop circles that I am reading at the moment.  This book, ‘Secrets in the Fields – The Science and Mysticism of Crop Circles‘ by Freddy Silva, is truly mind-blowing and has been recommended to me by two different individuals in the last few weeks.   It explores many aspects of sacred geometry inherent in crop circles in which the hexagon plays a very significant part, being the natural division of the circle into six parts.  It also contains the symbol for the Seal of Soloman (‘As above, So below’, etc) which contains two triangles, one pointing to the heavens and one pointing to the earth……and …. oh! too much.  This will have to wait until my next post!

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Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Textiles

Up-Cycled History

the felt needle book I made for my mother, aged 10!

In these times of deep economic recession, up-cycling old items of clothing into new inventions is all the rage.  Couple this economic gloom with the dark days of winter (for me, a traditional time of hibernation), what better way to while away these long winter evenings than a bit of hand-stitched patchworking?  A recession-busting activity not only good for the soul but also kind on the wallet.  With the first buds of Spring just around the corner, and my first grandchild due in the Summer, what better incentive is there than to channel my excitement at the prospect of becoming a Grandmother into making something like a unique cot quilt to welcome the new arrival?

Once Liz (at Threads) had shown me how to make a patchwork ‘flower’ using a hexagonal template, there was no stopping.   I had planned the whole project to be a surprise, but my daughter ‘skyped’ me one evening and caught me ‘in the act’.  Having owned up with some relief that I could now enjoy my progress with her, she was absolutely delighted with the flowers I had produced thus far, calling them ‘stars’, a description which I prefer.

a few ‘stars’

reverse view

Having bought a selection of new materials from Liz to get me started, I then raided my old trunk for other likely scraps I could use with the result that my ‘starburst’ patchwork is now studded with patterns from my own family history.   Scraps gleaned from old jeans, surplus curtain hems, discarded arm-chair covers, cotton shirts and old duvet covers, finding a new life in a quilt lovingly put together for this very latest addition to the family, slowly embedded with a scattering of old family memories.

rough layout

Far from being boring and repetitive, this activity is proving to be a very satisfying and therapeutic thing to do, particularly when only half an ear is required for telly viewing.  For such intricate, close-up work, (my eyesight being no longer 20/20 vision, not that it ever was), a strong light and a needle threader are vital aids for the job.  The needle threader, being no bigger than the width of a human hair, does have to be treated with the utmost respect.  I’ve already lost one in the pile of my rug, so have taped my current one to its holder so that it shall not escape, or I shall be utterly lost.

I am already looking at other types of quilting techniques and particularly like the creative aspect and sometimes random method of patchworking.  This one, my first, is evolving as I go along, a creative technique that is very familiar to me.  But I fear I will become more ambitious.  I’m already planning other quilts and looking at what people are wearing with a critical eye!   I think I shall have to raid the charity shops for a new source of material, even though in these times of austerity, I think most people are probably holding onto their old clothes.  Perhaps I might tap into the wonderful ‘network’ that is Network Cornwall and get a message out there that I am looking for scraps of material for up-cycling!   I have never known this network not to come up trumps.

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