Thursday, 10 July 2014

Out & About: Inspiring Yorkshire

Poppy in field
School’s out for summer and, displaying my Cooper genes, I whisked the kids away 20mins after school finished.  Holidays should never be wasted!  
Lots of poppies
We had a glorious week in the North York Moors, with R joining us as weekends, finishing up staying at the in-laws elsewhere in Yorkshire for the start of the Tour de France.
Column in Whitby Abbey
I took lots of ‘inspiration’ photos as you can see.  I also really enjoyed spending a few minutes browsing charity bookshops – we don’t have any here and it is rare I have time when I do go to places with shops just to browse.  R found an old guidebook for a museum in Greece, which had some lovely, exciting images for me.
Drawing from a vase in the Greek Museum Guide.  It doesn't say what museum!

This week has been spent juggling spending time with the children and finishing quilts off to send away for exhibitions.  I’m really relieved to have finished sewing on the sleeves.  Definitely my least favourite part of the process.  But I am pleased they are properly finished and in the post. 
Old wall 
Now to enjoy some of the lovely weather we have been having!

Seeing the yellow jersey of the leader of the Tour de France
Smoke dispersing after the Red Arrows passed over Harewood House

Not good on plant names - but it was pretty

We went to Scarborough Aquarium.  It was the kids' suggestion honest!

The jellyfish were stunning and the kids were very excited on my behalf










Monday, 30 June 2014

Inspiration: Marjory McKinven and Marion Robertson

Marion and Marjory
I’m really pleased that my latest article in Popular Patchwork features my friends, the sisters Marjory McKinven and Marion Robertson.  Marjory and Marion are both lovely people, always ready with smiles, encouragement and laughter.  Marjory has also been a fantastic help to me this year with the C&G course, whilst Ruth has been too ill to teach.  Marjory also creates the most amazing hand-dyed fabric.
Detail of one of Marjory's quilts
The reason for the article is that they are having their first joint exhibition in August in Carradale, on the Mull of Kintyre, where Marjory spends more and more of her time.  Carradale really is a long way from anywhere, but I assume that is part of its charms.  We’re heading down to see the show and are going to take the tent (and the kids) with us, as there is a campsite besides the village.
Detail of one of Marion's quilts
So if you are looking for something interesting to do over the August Bank Holiday weekend, why not come up to remote and beautiful Scotland?
Their exhibition ‘From the River to the Sea’ runs from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August from 10am to 5pm.  Email marjorymckinven@hotmail.com for further information.




Monday, 23 June 2014

Inspiration: the Difficult Fabric Challenge

I’ve just spent the last four days teaching the C&G Summer School with Ruth Higham.  The weather was glorious, which helped as we spent Thursday at the Botantic Gardens in Glasgow.  There was so much inspiration in the plants, especially some of the amazing foliage and the glasshouse architecture.  The next three days were in the Studio making a piece of art cloth using dyeing and printing using a thermofax screen which the students designed as a result of the Botantics visit. 

I also gave the students a fun challenge.  When I visited AQS Quilt Week in Paducah I spent several hours trawling the vendors’ booths for a particularly difficult piece of fabric to work with.  When I saw this piece, I knew I had struck gold.  
Each student got a piece and was challenged to turn it into something beautiful.  Someone did suggest burning it and I think that could have worked, if you then stuck the ashes to some nice cloth in an interesting pattern, but no-one took me up on this!
Here are some of the results (there were another three but I didn't get to photograph them):

Laura dyed her piece and it will look great in some quilt soon

Moira dyed hers and then appliquéd it to a red and purple background.  I love the colours she achieved

Valerie’s  is in progress and is chopped into pieces of confetti, along with other fabrics, layered between dissolvable fabric

Rosemary has hidden her piece in the middle of this faux chenille design

Irene also slashed hers and then stitched it down

Christine dyed then stitched her piece onto a black background with tiny seed beads

Ellen cut circles from the fabric and turned them into a group of Suffolk Puffs to decorate her apron

Finally, Linda decided to celebrate the fabric and created this little appliqué.
I’m really impressed with their inventiveness – what do you think?


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Inspiration: Lily Lui's Textile Vessels

Lily Lui
Textiles are very flexible and can be used in so many different ways.  I think this is part of the fascination for us.  Functional such as clothing, curtains, towels, bedding quilting, embroidery, knitting and, of course, art.  Any regular reader knows I really like objects which subvert our understanding of the textile form and so I was thrilled to discover Lily Lui’s work in Paducah. 
Lily Lui
With a background in textiles and ceramics, Lily creates beautiful 3D vessel shapes from tiny pieces of fabric, exquisitely rolled into shape and then joined together.  The forms she makes are undulate, like her fabric rolls; interesting kind of bowl shapes.
Lily’s work was included in the Fantastic Fibers exhibition at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, and also in her studio/shop ‘Created For U’, which was very close to the Exhibition Center.
Lily Lui

I can’t find many details about Lily’s work online for you to look at, but I did discover this fantastic blogpost by Rose Hughes, showing how Lily creates these beautiful vessels.  I would have loved to bring one home, but unfortunately I had a soft suitcase.  I really need to grow up and stop using rucksacks and get a hard suitcase so I can purchase proper art when I travel!
Lily Lui

Lily Lui







Monday, 9 June 2014

In my studio: Dislocating ancient bird goddesses

I’ve just been looking down the list of my recent blog posts and there has been a lot about me gallivanting around and less on what I’m actually doing in the studio.

Original Idea - breaking up a goddess figure
Last time I wrote about my work in progress, it was to share the drawings I was trying to do daily.  Of course, I haven’t succeeded in doing one every day, but they are on-going and throwing up lots of other ideas. 
My drawing from the vase

For example, I have been considering making a piece for the CQ exhibition for the Festival of Quilts.  I’ve never entered one of their juried shows before, but the theme ‘Dislocation’ resonated with what I’m working on with my forgotten goddesses. 
Some of my doodles looking at the shape

I looked up lots of different dictionaries for the definition of ‘dislocation’ and it includes, paraphrasing the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘the state of being out of place’.  So I had been thinking of making one of my figures and then ripping it up into pieces and laying them disjointed on a background, a bit like my rough sketch, almost like the goddess figurines would be found nowadays when they are discovered on an archaeological dig.  I still like the idea and will make the piece sometime, but for CQ exhibition, there is a strict size limitation and I want some of the pieces to stick out of the sides as if they can be contained.  Also I need to spend more time than I have thinking through the technicalities, having left it to the last moment as normal.


Where I've got to!
Luckily, I was really taken with today’s daily drawing, from an ancient vase in the collection of the Met Museum in New York.  I’ve spent quite a long time doodling it and have come up with some alternative ideas for this lady, who looks a bit like a bird goddess.  Fingers crossed the samples will work when I try them tomorrow!



Thursday, 5 June 2014

Inspiration: the ultimate guide to Art Quilting by Linda Seward


I received a lovely surprise yesterday afternoon when a courier arrived at my door with a flat parcel.  I didn’t remember ordering anything, so was rather intrigued.  The kids lost interest when I opened it to reveal this quilting book, but I certainly didn’t!

Linda Seward is the author of one of my favourite traditional quilting books:’ The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Appliqué’.  Whilst I have been teaching C&G Patchwork and Quilting over the last 18 months, if there was anything I needed to know, you could guarantee it would be in this book – have you any idea how few mentions there are of Somerset Patchwork even on the web?!  It definitely lives up to its name and is comprehensive. 

With this new book, Linda is setting out to do the same for Art Quilting, something that barely existed when she wrote her original book 27 years ago (she has written lots of other book besides).  ‘The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting’ covers every imaginable technique used by art quilters today.  From a quick flick through the book, I can see snow dyeing, soy wax, wet felting, upcycling, a variety of different raw edge appliqué methods, computer generated embroidery amongst lots of others.  Of course given the volume of techniques covered, there is not a lot of detail.  But that is not the aim of the book.  The book aims to show you the potential there is at the moment in the art quilt world.  If you want to try one of the techniques beyond basic, you need a specialist guide to it and there is no way one book could contain it all.

As well as giving me lots of technical ideas to try – there are lots included that I haven’t yet – what makes the book really special is the range and quality of art quilts in it.  Linda obviously made a significant effort to ensure that the book also acts as a survey of art quilts today.  It has many artists I know, but also several I don’t  and it has been lovely looking at all of these gorgeous quilts and just feeling inspired.

A friend asked me on Facebook yesterday was the book worth it and my response has to be yes on two levels: for the beginner it is a great introduction to exciting techniques used by art quilters around the world; for those more experienced, it is a good book to dip into when you want to play and try something different and to admire the talent of art quilters today.




Oh, and  you may recognise the quilt on p229... but my review would have been the same even if my work hadn’t been included.  I feel honoured to have my work included with all of these other amazing quilts.

Monday, 2 June 2014

New Work: New Life for the SAQA Benefit Auction

New Life by Gillian Cooper

Some people work well with a schedule of what they need to do by when and will finish things well in advance so that they will be organised.  Others of us, well, let’s just say I’m the queen of the last minute.  Without deadlines, I can struggle.  Of course, life would be less stressful if I was always ready in advance, but where would the fun be?  The kids wouldn’t recognise me if we didn’t arrive up at school right at the last minute.  However, I do want it to be noted that in seven years, we haven’t been late once... yet!
And so it is with my artwork.  Deadlines can help.  I decided that I wanted to make a piece for the SAQA Benefit Auction months ago and when did I make it?  The week before the deadline.  Luckily, given that it had to posted internationally, the deadline was extended by two weeks.  Even better for SAQA, the deadline was extended after I had posted it or it still wouldn’t be finished now.
I decided to make something a little different and experiment. Circles keep cropping up at the moment so I thought I would just go with it and do circles.  I hand-dyed lots of different types of fabric to make the circles to add to the texture.  It’s finished with recycled glass beads from the African Fabric Shop – I just couldn’t resist them at the Loch Lomond Quilt Show.

Anyway I think it is a bit different to everything else I’m doing and I’m not sure it will be more than one off – but what do you think?  Do brighter colours work for me?  Does it look like my artwork?!  If you really like it, it will be auctioned raise funds for SAQA in September - even if you don't want to buy this piece, you should have a look at some of the others.  SAQA has lots of talented members.  

Monday, 26 May 2014

Out & About: Reflections on the not-so-mean-streets of New York


Reflections on buildings are a very popular subject matter for textile artists and it is easy to see why.  The grid structures; the gradations in colour; the relation to quilt blocks and so on.  Plus they are fun to photograph.  I haven’t made any work using reflections yet (at least I don’t think I have), but I do love to photograph them. 

So when I arrived in New York, tired and at the end of a long day of travel a few weeks ago, I determined that I was going to make the most of my time there and headed out with my camera.  It was a lovely evening and the sun was beginning to set casting the most beautiful, quick changing reflections – something I don’t get to see living in a low rise Scottish village (although we do get the most amazing sunsets). 

New York felt very different from the last time I visited, sometime last century – it had a relaxed sense, perhaps because it was a Sunday evening and no one was rushing in a normal workday manner.  The streets were busy, but everyone seemed to be out enjoying the spectacle – maybe we were all tourists together!


Hopefully one of these photos can inspire you to make some new work this week.











Friday, 23 May 2014

In my studio: drawing Cycladic figures


What with my American adventures and the Loch Lomond Quilt Show and mildly sick children, I haven’t had much time for my own work recently.  However, I have started trying to draw every day. 

Traditional drawing has never been one of my strengths.  I think the most charitable thing any tutor has ever said about my drawing was ‘I drew really well with a camera’.  This is all well and good, but I do want to improve my drawing skills and although I’ll never be Picasso, by practice I can improve. 

At the Met Museum in New York, I was really excited to find a booklet solely on the ancient Greek figures that interest me, 'Art of the Aegean Bronze Age', so it had to come home with me (I did pay for it!).  I’ve been drawing the figures in it for approx 25 mins each time.  I’m not sure of any improvement yet, but I am pleased that I can really see the difference between the 10 minute sketch and the 25 minutes ones - can you tell?  


I hope if I can keep this up, it will start bearing fruit in my artworks, but we will have to wait and see.  It is a lovely calm way to start the day even if it has no obvious benefit...



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