Monday, 30 September 2013

Inspiration: 10 great blogs to follow

Until recently I have been working on the craft magazine, Homemade with Love as the sub-editor.  I had great fun working with Jane Rae to create a lovely craft magazine.  One of the best bits of the job was crafting a list of blogs to inspire the readers.  I spent far too long researching blogs as it was literally so inspiring.  The brief was general craft, cooking and design blogs and I thought I would share some of my favourite textile/art ones with you.  Not all of these were used in the magazine as some were too textile art based rather than craft, but I think they may be of interest here.  Do you have any other favourites I should check out?
Interviews with artists who also happen to be mothers and how they balance life and art.

Maria Shell is the stitcher telling tales and I just love the front page of her blog, which is so full of colour and impact.

I’m a sucker for an interestingly named blog or website and this one definitely caught my attention.  This blog is full of surface design techniques
Karen is a fantastic photographer and fibre based artist in Chile.  This blog is just beautiful.
Jane La Fazio’s blog is full of her inspiration and art quilts.  The sun just shines out from them, which is lovely to read in a rather damp and grey Scottish village!
Lots and lots of different uses of paper by a variety of artists.  Very inspiring.
And just because I also adore food, here is one of the foodie ones I recommended.
These are some of the new blogs I discovered - I follow plenty of others already.  Three of my favourites (and no offense is meant to anyone I have listed here, I just don't have time to put together more) are:
I am just in awe at the amount Frieda does, all beautifully photographed too.  Frieda also does a daily photo blip on Blipfoto, which is well worth a look if you haven’t discovered it yet.  I am a less frequent blipper than Frieda, but add on my images as gilliantextiles.
Margaret Cooter is another prolific blogger who, in addition to talking about her own work, has an insightful commentary on the work of others.  I love checking it out to find out about artists I would never otherwise have discovered.
Mags is a textile artist who also happens to be a Conservational Biotechnologist at Kew Gardens.  Her work is interesting as is the balance of enjoyed paid-work and all-absorbing hobby.
So this is ten that I love - what other ones can you recommend?

Friday, 27 September 2013

In my studio: this week

This week I’ve spent almost five full days (or at least school days!) in the studio, which has been lovely.  Although nothing is finished, I thought I would share some of the things I have been working on which are still in progress.

Dyeing fabric

I have lots of fabric dyeing going on.  Some in bags, some in tubs, some in tubs and some in buckets.  The first round is complete and now I am making paler colours by using up the excess dye.  Ruth Higham suggested using the pure cotton sheets from Asda  as they dye really well and she was right.  The fabric is lovely and it ironed beautifully afterwards.  I did do something rather silly though and bought a fitted sheet rather than a flat one by error.  I thought I had been checking carefully too!

I have also been painting sketchbooks with the dye to create some backgrounds.
Coffee Cup Patchwork
I started developing a new workshop this week about making patterns and 3D paper piecing.  This is the first sample underway.  I now have the pattern ready and can start piecing next week.
The Big Draw 5 October
I have been charged with planning two of our activities for the Big Draw event FAB Arts is running on Saturday 5 October.  If you are in the Balfron area, please come along as it is a fantastic morning – drop in anytime to the McLintock Hall between 10am and 1pm.  We are going to make paper buildings and I was trying out patterns for them.  We are also going to make mosaics using the huge collection of milk bottle tops I have been accumulating over the years.  I am really excited by this one as if it goes well, we can see about making it into a large scale community art project to go outside in Balfron.

Article on Loch Lomond Quilt Show for Popular Patchwork
I finally crafted my piece on the Loch Lomond Quilt Show for Popular Patchwork – a bit later than normal, but the last few months have been really hectic, then followed by the post-hectic migraine cluster slump.  The feature includes this lovely quilt, 'Fire and Ice' by Frieda Oxenham.
Frieda Oxenham, 'Fire and Ice'
These are just the main highlights.  I’ve also cut a stencil, made a papier mache piñata for a birthday party (still to be filled and painted), sketched and written about several ideas and planned next month’s City & Guilds weekend, checking out lots of fun drawing exercises.  I’ve got next week planned out already – let’s hope it is just as productive and who knows something may actually get completed!



Friday, 20 September 2013

Inspiration: Pinterest Friday: Masks

In Progress Pastel Drawing

This week I’ve been looking at masks on Pinterest.  I find these pared back, monochromatic masks really intriguing and used them as the basis for last Saturday’s ArtWorks class (for kids aged 5-14).  The kids responded well to them and these are two of the paintings they made along with my example one.
Callum's (11) Mask Painting
Katie's (6) Mask Painting
My Mask Painting - using gouache rather than the bright poster paints the kids had
Another great resource for masks is this catalogue I have from the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.  The photographs are superb and the information fascinating. You can buy it on Amazon and perhaps other places too.
I’ve started drawing some of them from memory rather than copying directly.  This one at the top of the post is in progress and I’ve been using pastels.  I love pastels, the sheer chalkiness and the way they crumble and you can smudge.  This time I’m using a box of Unison pastels which I bought years ago and the tones I have are just perfect for this.  I’ll post the completed drawing when I finally finish it.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

PomPoms on a jaunt to Stirling

The PomPoms came out to play again at the weekend as part of the Stirling Fringe Festival.  We put them up in Baker Street Gardens in Stirling in the pouring rain (and I mean pouring).  Although it is a relatively small public space, the PomPoms looked fabulous there.  They really brightened up the park and, perhaps because the space was more confined, they seemed to have a bigger impact than when they were spread all over Balfron.  Strangely, I enjoyed the event more this time.  I think it was because it was time limited and I'm not as exhausted with running the whole event.  Also, I knew it would work and that the reaction would probably be good, whereas it was totally unknown territory when I did it for the first time.
Despite the doomsayers who believed that the PomPoms would be decimated by vandals, there was no real damage done to any of them and only a couple went missing – actually better than in our small country village.
So the PomPoms are now spread across my studio floor and the car boot trying to dry off.  It will take some time. Then I need to get to work sorting them out.  I'm hoping we can pass some on to other events and sell off others to raise money so we can run future events like this.  So if you know of any worthy causes, let me know.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Out & About: Cloth & Memory {2}

Yoriko Yoneyama, Rice Dreams 2013 Salts Mill (detail)
Cloth and Memory 2 is the latest textile art exhibition curated by Lesley Millar.
The show is amazing, using the attic space of an old textile mill to display the work, much of which has been inspired by the building and the memories wrapped in it. The building itself is astounding. Salt Mills was one of the numerous textile mills in Bradford. The lower floors have been converted into post industrial gallery space, with a permanent collection of David Hockney's work, a wonderful independent bookshop, cafes etc.  You can clearly see the vastness of the space and its connections to the past.
Diana Harrison, Handkerchiefs

Calling the gallery Cloth and Memory is displayed in the "attic" is a bit of a misnomer, as I think of attics as small, restricted places. This is vast area, which was the spinning room of the mill and hasn't been as updated as the rest of the building, giving more of a sense of connection to its past.
Yoriko Murayama, And Then
The actual work was very thought provoking, linking the ideas of memory to space to textiles. My favourite pieces were made by Yoriko Murayama, who used old and new photographs of building and wove these into strips of cloth and paper which spiral in cones in the centre of the space.  The images due to the weaving technique used have become fuzzy, giving the sense of the indistinctness of memory and of time passing.
Yoriko Murayama, And Then (detail)
Yoriko Murayama, And Then (detail)

I also really appreciated Rachel Gray’s small strip pieces, which melted in beautifully with the walls using layers which revealed and hid details.

Rachel Gray Shadow Pieces

Rachel Gray Shadow Pieces (detail)

If there was an additional theme amongst the work, it was the sober, austere nature of the palette used by the artists.  Very few used bright colour at all and so the red thread used by Katharina Hinsberg looked all the more startling and the kimono strips and mirrors used by Machiko Agano seemed positively garish.  I suppose the lack of colour fits well with the concepts of memory involved: time washing away the details. 
Caroline Bartlett, Stilled
Caroline Bartlett, Stilled (detail)

You can discover more about the exhibition at and more about Salt Mills at  There is also a beautiful catalogue to accompany the show, which is well worth getting and I could have spent all day in the wonderful bookshop. If you get the chance, I would strongly recommend going to see this exhibition.
Salts Mill bookshop

Some of the wonderful cook books at Salts Mill bookshop

Friday, 6 September 2013

Inspiration: Pinterest Friday: Coral and Fish

This week’s dose of Pinterest pleasure comes in the form of coral and fish.  I love photographing these at aquariums, as I have not had the chance to snorkel/ scuba dive amongst them (but it would be nice one day!).
Although I’ve been collecting these images for years, I’ve only managed to make one small series of artwork based on them, which appositely, is on show at the Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre at the moment.
I’d still like to work with them, but I suspect it will be a while before it comes to fruition.  Do you have a subject matter that you love but haven’t managed to translate into your artwork yet?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

In progress: Grandmother's Flower Garden

As I mentioned in my last post, I have bought some more fabric for my hexagon quilt.  I started it in April 2011 – you can read about my intentions in this post  At that point I optimistically reasoned I could finish it in 18 months.  Well it is now 16 months later, so how is it progressing?
It is definitely progressing, but it certainly won’t be finished after 18 months.  If you look closely at the picture with all the ‘rosettes’ made to date, you will see that they are not even joined together yet. I’m currently thinking 3 years now! 

But it is a work in progress as opposed to a UFO (unfinished object), destined to sit in a cupboard forever.  I pick it up now and again.  It is a great thing to do in the car, as R is an awful passenger and so does all the long distance driving.  I got loads made on the way to France this summer on holiday.  In fact, as it is very portable, I tend to work away at it whilst I am away from home. 

I’ll keep you informed of its progress... in another 18 months or so!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Out & About: Good things from the Festival of Quilts

Going to the Festival of Quilts has many attractions.  Firstly, of course, there are the quilts.  Then there is the joy of meeting up with other quilters you have met in the past, such as Ruth Singer or Olga Prins, who explained to me that I had misunderstood her technique in an article I had written last year about the European Art Quilts, which she runs and which, excitingly, is going to have another exhibition soon.  Her actual way of getting colour onto fabric is even more involved and fascinating.  In addition to stitchers you already know, it is great to discover new people.  This time, I met with Mary Fisher, Mandy Pattullo and Lucie Summers, all of whom I’m hoping to write about soon for Popular Patchwork.  They were all really inspirational. 

Another (unspoken) benefit for me is a couple of days off from being ‘mum’ and I enjoy that freedom to be me rather than having to parent and remember to be good!

Finally, there is the huge attraction of all the traders, with their multi-coloured, tempting wares.  What did I succumb to this year?

Some of my students use these dye based paints and I loved the intensity of colour they gave, so I really want to try them for myself.
I bought this jelly roll for an article I’m writing for Popular Patchwork and have in fact stitched it already.  It is now awaiting quilting.

These fat quarters are for use on my hexagon quilt, which is progressing rather slower than I first thought (isn’t that always the case?!)
I want to find some more ways of adding imagery to my fabrics and thought that these could be a good way of adding details.

I’m making a quilt as a wedding present for our niece, Lucy and these 10in squares from the Cotton Patch are now part of the plan.

This fabric was bought to be the backing of some linen cushion covers and I’ve run them up already.

Finally, I was sorely tempted and unable to resist temptation I bought some goodies from 21st Century Yarns.  I would like to try something a bit different to my normal with them and get back to some hand stitching.
That’s lots of plans... we’ll see how they develop!

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