Saturday, 30 November 2013

Inspiration: Photos of the Vale of Leven Industrial Estate

This post has taken a long time!  Originally it was going to be what I have been doing in the studio this week. But as I got down to writing it on the plane to Lisbon on Thursday, I realised I hadn't taken any photos on my phone, so I had nothing to show. I then wrote a lovely version of this post but when I connected my phone to wifi later in the day it had disappeared. So here are some photos of the industrial estate where I teach C&G. I took them on our last weekend when we went for a walk. I really loved spending the time going slow and really examining what was there and can see loads of potential in these photos.

Our break in Lisbon is almost over now and it has been very inspiring too and hopefully if my phone doesn't play up again I'll have some inspiring photos from there/here soon!

Monday, 25 November 2013

How to: Coffee Cup Patchwork

Coffee cup patchwork

This is the finished coffee cup patchwork.  I was trying it out as a potential workshop idea, but I’m not sure I will develop it as such, much as I enjoyed making it.  Although the idea is simple, it is rather complicated and time consuming, which doesn’t lend itself to a one-day class, especially as there is lots of hand stitching.  Despite that, I’m really pleased with the results.  So I thought I’d share the process with you.
Initial drawing made on phone whilst the kids had a swimming lesson

I took a disposable paper coffee cup and ran string in a spiral down it and marked the line. 
Cutting along the line gives you a long strip, which I then marked out into triangles.  Each triangle was then numbered and I reconstructed the cup to see mark where they touched each other.


The triangles were cut out and I felt-tipped the edges black so they would be easier to see when I copied them.  I stuck them onto sheets of paper using little blobs of masking tape on the back.

I enlarged them on my photocopier to 400% and then used these pieces as templates.  I cut matching pieces in thick paper and medium weight sew-in Vilene.  I made sure I numbered all of these!  Then one at a time, I cut fabric about 1/4in bigger all around for the seam allowance.  I decided not to worry about being too precise in this.
Joining the first two pieces.  I actually started with numbers 9 & 10, because they were less fiddly than 1 & 2

Each fabric piece was then tacked onto the thick paper, with the nice side showing and the Vilene sandwiched out of sight in-between.  I then overstitched it to its neighbour, creating a long snake of patchwork – there were 38 pieces in all. 
In progress
Stitching together
Once the snake was complete, I made the bottom piece the same way and started over-stitching the snake to the bottom, keeping an eye that my numbering was still in order. 
Stitching the snake to the base

The finished ‘cup’ is surprisingly sturdy and I like the homey look of seeing all the stitching, including the tacking.  Do you like seeing the stitching or would you prefer it to be hidden?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Inspiration: Pinterest Friday: Circles

This week’s Pinterest board is all about circles.  I love the never-ending shape of circles, but I think I prefer them to be imperfect – slightly off rather than precisely round. 
I have been drawing them for a while, playing around with the idea of circles within circles and this week I screen-printed some circle fabric.  So it seemed appropriate to find circles on Pinterest.  There were some amazing pieces of art, textiles, graphic design from all across the world.  Very inspiring.

screen printed circles

With my own work, I think the motif of a circle has a place in the sense of us never quite forgetting our ancient goddesses – there is some primitive memory within us.  Also, without wishing to be cheesy, there is the idea of the circle of life as we move through time.  This is definitely something to be developed and hopefully expressed in more interesting terms!
As well as playing on Pinterest and printing and going to exhibitions this week, I also spoke at Stirling andDistrict Embroiderers’ Guild on Wednesday evening.  They were a lovely receptive group and a pleasure to share with.  They are having their own exhibition at the Smith Gallery in Stirling soon and from what I saw, it should be well worth a visit.  The Smith has also commissioned them to make a banner about Stirling and its heritage and it is coming together beautifully.  I can’t wait to see the finished result!






Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Out & About: Louise Bourgeois Exhibitions in Edinburgh

ARTIST ROOMS Louise Bourgeois, A Woman Without Secrets
Exhibition poster from Scottish Gallery of Modern Art

Yesterday I had an amazing day out in Edinburgh.  It was bitterly cold, but the sun shone brightly and what a difference that makes!  I met up with an old friend, Catherine Hiley, who is a talented printmaker and book artist.  And I got to see the two Louise Bourgeois exhibitions. 

The two shows were a brilliant insight into a famous artist in her final years.  (She died in 2010 aged 99).  Several of the works dated from 2010, which in itself is inspiring.  As I tweeted at the time, I hope I’m still making meaningful work at 99.  I was waiting for the riposte it would be nice if you made meaningful work now!  However, that was part of the appeal of Louise Bourgeois work.  It was intensely personal and meaningful to her, exploring her life story for art, but also opening a door for the viewer to see her anxieties and neuroses.  As well as making fascinating artwork, she was obviously highly intelligent and a talented writer. 
I have a book of her writings which I bought many years ago and found it tremendously encouraging and thoughtful.  She uses words with many of her artworks.  Often I find this off-putting, wanting the art to speak for itself, but with LB (the plainly signed initials on her work), the pithy words add another dimension.  I also enjoy her humour.  For example on one of the large pieces upstairs at the Fruitmarket, she has written

“my memory is moth eaten
full of holes”

Another quote which I appreciate is
“I have been to hell & back.  And let me tell you, it was wonderful.”
Photo: Louise Bourgeois I Give Everything Away
Installation View, The Fruitmarket Gallery 2013
Photo: Ruth Clark
Installation view at Fruitmarket from its facebook page

For all the humour, there was also a sense of an end, of foreboding, particularly with the two series of work on paper at the Fruitmarket.  These are the poignant works of an old artist who knew there was unlikely to be many more, facing up to her mortality, many years after most of her peers, and her husband had died.

As an artist myself, her Insomina Drawings, also at the Fruitmarket were fascinating.  Made during the night in 1994-5, when she couldn’t sleep, these A4 sized melanges of scribbles, drawings, sketches and words in both French and English provide a huge insight into her working processes and ideas. I kept look at the different qualities of line she used and thinking how my C&G students could learn from it!  Even when made in the middle of the night, the sense of precision, repetition and following through of a theme were enthralling.  It did feel slightly voyeuristic – a view into her private world as these were not drawn to be published, but to help her through those long lonely hours of darkness, when you feel you are the only person left, with only your fears to keep you company. 

If you are in Edinburgh, do try and go and spend time with these works.  If you can’t make, the Fruitmarket’s website has some interesting links, including this one to a short video about the show.  It also has a catalogue with lots of facsimiles of the Insomnia Drawings.
Louise Borgeois Catalogue

Also, this is the link to show at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art or Modern One as it now seems to be called.  Sorry there are no images, but photography wasn’t allowed.

Friday, 15 November 2013

In my studio: at a snail's pace to completion

This week in the studio I’ve been trying to finish things, with varying success...! 

Unsung Muses pieces
Let’s start with my ‘real’ work.  I haven’t managed to finish any work for ages – I’ve been stuck at the starting ‘scatter-gun’ position for a few months now.  So I decided I really needed to finish some that had been on the go for a while, just to get them out of the way.  Here’s some close-ups of the two I’ve been working on this week.  The orange/bronze coloured one is basically finished, except I don’t like where I’ve put one of the lines of stitching.  I don’t think anyone else will notice, but I do so I need to fix that before I reveal the whole hanging.  So only 15mins work left.
The other piece has been at the almost finished stage for ages and now it only needs the final trimming and the hand stitching of the hanging sleeves, so hopefully I’ll be able to reveal the whole piece next week... (but don’t hold me to it!)

Coffee Cup Patchwork
I’ve progressed to 33 of the 38 pieces joined together into a big long row.  I’m getting excited and slightly worried about whether they will spiral together properly – they should as I’ve measured it, but until I actually start stitching...
Transfer Printing
At the weekend, one of the topics I was teaching at the C&G class was transfer printing.  I’ve resisted the temptation to start making work based on maps, the topic for the next few sessions, although it is fascinating and full of potential; but I couldn’t resist having a go at some transfer printing.  This has had mixed results, however, I don’t think you can do transfer printing properly without at least annihilating several pieces of fabric.  I managed it so well, I melted three bits of fabric into the paper and couldn’t remove it – the transferred colour was very strong though! 
The disaster!
The colour on the pieces that have worked is weaker, but they are at least intact!  I am thinking they could be really interesting layered into a piece, as I am playing with the ideas of memory and its disintegration, so having some obscured by other layers would work well.
Three layers of transfer printed chiffon

Simple Quilts
After longarm quilting at Beechwood last week, I’ve finished one – hurrah!  The second only needs the binding stitched down on the back and the third the binding added.  I keep thinking I can do the hand stitching in front of the TV in the evening as it doesn’t need too much concentration, but I don’t really watch much television, so I need to find other times to do it.

The backing on the one I’ve shown in the photo is some Amy Butler fabric and I’m really liking the way it is making me smile when I see it – it is definitely cheerful fabric.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Inspiration: Make it Personal by Hilary Beattie

Make it Personal is a new self published book by Hilary Beattie.  She decided to write the books she wanted in the way she wanted and this is the first in a planned series.  As it is so personal, the design and layout of the book do not follow the norm, which is lovely.  It is a shame when an author’s voice has to be subsumed into a standard layout in a magazine or book.  I like quirky!
A spread from the book
Although the books overall are going to be about working through different themes in textiles, Hilary quickly realised that she needed to equip readers with the techniques first of making your fabric personal and this is what this book does.

Asters 2 by Hilary Beattie
I really like the way she does not follow rules for the sake of it, but uses the techniques in an exploratory manner and encourages the readers to do the same.  She runs through different materials, media and methods, such as thermofax printing, using thickened dye, creating rubbing plates, using stencils, screen printing etc.  It is packed full of examples of Hilary’s work over a range of subjects, particularly showing good use of nature.

Master Caster

I enjoyed reading the book and seeing how one artist has developed her techniques into a way that suits her.  Hilary also shares this information very generously.  If you need encouragement to look at textile surface design techniques, this could be a good place to start.  You can buy it direct from Hilary at or on Amazon.  You can find out more about Hilary on her website or in an upcoming article I've just written about her in Popular Patchwork.

Jugs 4 - Queen of the Night by Hilary Beattie

Monday, 11 November 2013

Workshop: Paper Pieced Vessels

Last week I spent Guy Fawkes Night in Peebles, giving a talk to Tweedale Quilters.  Peebles is obviously very well behaved as I only heard a couple of fireworks.  The following day, 10 of the ladies from Tweedale Quilters joined me for my paper-pieced vessels workshop. 

I love paper piecing, even if often brings back horrific memories to women of a certain age of their first efforts of patchwork in the 1970s using hexagons and Laura Ashley fabrics.  It was one of the first patchwork techniques I was introduced to and I love sharing my enthusiasm for using it in unusual ways in creating 3-D vessels.  It was a lovely calm day – no sewing machines, all by hand and I hope the ladies enjoyed it as much as I did.
It was also quite useful as paper piecing was one of the topics we covered at the weekend at the C&G class, so I had my samples all ready for the students to look at.  Ironically, Marjory, who was teaching with me, brought along her traditional paper piecing to show – Laura Ashley hexagons which had been in an attic for years, waiting to be finished!
I also did a class thing at the weekend.  I had taken the demonstration sample in progress for Somerset folded patchwork to the hospital on Thursday, when I took my son back to have his broken arm examined.  I quickly grabbed it out of my handbag on Saturday morning, open it out to discover I had brought along his temporary calico sling instead!  Not very useful for teaching, but I did end up using the fabric as the basis of the new sample as I demonstrated the technique from scratch!  I’ll show you the finished Somerset piece when I have edged it.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

In my studio: artist's book in progress

Pine Page
Whilst I was away in the depths of the North York Moors the other week, I decided I had to make some art.  It was wonderful staying in the woods, feeling totally surrounded by nature and seeing the effects of the weather subtly changing the landscape over the space of a week, as more trees lost leaves and the colours turning more brown.
Moss page

I had taken a small, long, narrow sketchbook with me, bought at the Festival of Quilts from Oliver Twists, which I had already painted with some leftover blue and yellow procion dyes (not very natural, I know, but if I’m honest, I like my home comforts and will never be a complete nature-girl). 
The bound sketchbook
As the kids explored the little stream and how to dam it, I collected as many different leaves, berries and grasses as I could find.  I bound them into my sketchbook and left them.  My binding wasn’t terribly tight, so when I got home, I pressed in R’s Black & Decker workbench.  It has left a great imprint on the corrugated cardboard cover.
Rowan berries
Being rather impatient and slightly concerned that it would be rotting rather than pressing in our frozen garage, I rescued it last week and had a look at the result.  As you can see from the photos, there has not been much colour transfer, but I have lovely indentations shaped like the pine kernels (not sure what the right word is – can someone tell me?).  The moss also sucked the dye from the page, giving a beautiful effect.  It hasn’t given me a finished sketchbook, but it is a great step on the way to an artist’s book.
Fern on page
Effects of brambles
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