Thursday, 19 December 2013

Not in my studio: full-scale Christmas panic

One of our helpers decorating the tree
I would like to pretend that I am super-organised and super-together.  But the honest truth is I’m not.  Especially not at Christmas.  I had a lovely plan, including what blog entries I would be writing over last week and this, but it has all gone out the window as I have dissolved into my normal Christmas panic meltdown!  I still believe it is fine to ignore Christmas until after 10th December, which was the magic date in my family as it is my sister’s birthday and why should it get pushed out for Christmas.  However, there is only so much magic Santa’s elves can manage on their own and buying/cooking/decorating the house for Christmas seems like a full-time job at the moment.
Christmas fudge ready to be given (or eaten...)
However, the Christmas present baking is finished, the parcels have been (almost) all sent, some cards have been written and I’ve even managed some wrapping.  But the downside is, I’ve no time to work or blog!
Some Chili and Thyme Crackers ready for the oven

So I’m admitting Christmas defeat and settling down to full-time Christmas organisation, then I’m actually having a break – yes no work until the kids go back to school and R goes back to work – we’ll see if I can manage it!  I hope you and your loved ones have an amazing Christmas/ festive holidays and that 2014 will be a wonderful year for you all.

I’ll be back raring to go in the New Year, with lots of new ideas, techniques and work to share with you.  See you then.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

In my studio: breakdown printing

Printed using the rubbing plates

The last few weeks I have been busy making use of my new screen.  It is years since I have done any printing but it seems the right technique at the moment for creating cloth to make work from.
Breakdown printed

I’ve been using thickened dyes more and more and have little parcels of rolled fabric in plastic on my studio floor whilst the dye sets into the fabric.  I had a very cheap roll of plastic dust sheet and it is proving invaluable for this, especially as it is transparent so I can see what is going on.
Rolls of fabric waiting for the dye to cure

I keep hearing the term ‘breakdown’ printing and I know it is very fashionable at the moment, but it is not something I have tried, even though I saw Ruth demonstrate it to our C&G students earlier in the year.  So I thought I should give it a try.  I’m really pleased with these results as they are definitely creating the right look of fabric to move forward Unsung Muses again.
Fabric breakdown printed with the thickened dyes before it is washed out

I’ve been especially pleased with the results following Rayna Gillman’s suggestion, in her book, ‘Create your own hand-printed cloth’ to use rubbing plates to give the pattern to print with.  These have the additional bonus of creating a negative print from the dye left on the rubbing plate after you have pushed the dye through the screen and these are creating great prints too.
Breakdown printed, with some thermofax printing at the bottom right

For those (like me) that need the mystique taken out of breakdown printing, it is basically painting thickened dyes onto your screen, leaving them to dry.  Once dried, you screen print through this screen using plain manutex.  It is not a controllable process and you end up with several prints from it as various parts of the dried-on dye come off onto the fabric during the printing.  The fabric has to have been treated with soda ash prior to printing and then left to ‘cure’ for several hours, without the dye drying again so it remains on the fabric.  The fabric can then be washed out.
Breakdown printed

As I only have one screen it is rather a slow process, but that leaves me plenty of time to do other things in the meantime – like plan what to do with all the fabric I am printing!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Out & About: Museu Colecção Berardo, Lisbon

Alexander Calder

One of the highlights of our Lisbon trip was the Museu Colecção Berardo. It is probably the Portuguese equivalent of the Saatchi Collection as it is very large, although it concentrates on more on 20th century art rather than contemporary.

Amedeo Modigliani, Tete de jeune fille a la frange
It was interesting to see work by artists I didn't know as there seems to be an accepted English speaking trail through the 20th century, after starting in Paris and moving to Germany for the Bauhaus. I'm sure some of the work would be judged as of a lesser quality, but as Mark Elder, the conductor, was saying on Radio 4 this morning, the reception of the work at the time and now is so subjective and because these artists did not fit into the accepted narrative of living in the right place at the right time, that could be sufficient to have their work dismissed. 

Lynn Chadwick, Maquette for Teddy Boy and Girl II

For the first part of my viewing I was accompanied by our six year old daughter, dragging a gallery stool around, stopping and drawing the paintings that caught her eye. Eventually she was beaten by this one and would not be pacified by me explaining she had chosen a really difficult one (see below) that I would struggle with too!

Otto Freundlich, Untitled
She went off in disgust with her father and then I was given a guided tour of the rest of the 1900-1960 section by our 11 year old. It was fascinating to see what he liked - which was mainly expressive black marks on a white canvas.
Emilio Vedova, Presenza N5V
We explored the 1960+ section together, which neither of us enjoyed as much. He kept asking 'but why is this art, mummy?', which was difficult to answer at points. He wondered if he drew a line on a piece of paper and called it art whether he could sell it for £1million. I said it wouldn't be art as he wasn't an artist and what was the message or intent. He was more won over by the argument that no one would buy it...  It does get harder and harder to explain... Any suggestions?

Kenneth Armitage, Standing Figure

Friday, 6 December 2013

Those PomPoms again!

I’m back with the PomPoms again.  I’ve spent most of this week giving unruly PomPoms haircuts and retying broken hanging threads, getting them ready for the local school Christmas Fayre on Saturday.  I’ve bagged lots of them up, some by colour; some by size; others a lucky dip, with the aim of selling them to raise money to run future local art projects.  I’m hoping that visitors will see the potential of them as beautiful, unique Christmas tree decorations – suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.  Fingers crossed that it all goes well... and if anyone wants a bag, please message me and I’ll get it organised!
Oh, yes, I know I should show them styled on a Christmas tree so you can get a proper idea of how lovely they will look, but I'm so disorganised about Christmas that it will be several weeks before I have a tree ready to decorate!

Before being trimmed and bagged


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Out & About: Lisbon

At the Convento do Carmo

We decided to do something a bit daft last week and we took the kids to Lisbon for four days.  They were off school due to teacher training on Thursday and Friday and we just wanted to do something different.  I looked at cheap flights and Lisbon came up, which is a place none of us had ever visited before.

Sunset from the castle

We had a fabulous time.  We would all highly recommend Lisbon for a few days visit.  There were lots to see and do.  We arrived up at the castle not long before sunset and had beautiful views of pink and orange glowing skies across the bay. 
Light streaming through onto the balcony at the aquarium

The quality of light was astounding – it was just so bright and powerful compared to home.  I’m sure it must rain sometimes, but it felt as if summer had never ended!  You could get a real sense of what it would be like on an incredibly hot day.  There was also a real clarity in the light, probably due to time of year.
Ice cream breaks always go down well with the little monsters

The children love transport, so thought the old trams were great and I was especially grateful to the incredibly friendly locals who stopped a pickpocket taking my wallet whilst we were getting on the tram.
Convento do Carmo

We loved the ruins of the ancient convent, the Convento do Carmo, which had been destroyed by an earthquake and I really liked the pre-historic figures that were in its museum collection.  I’ve already started drawing ideas from them.
The water garden next to the aquarium

For me, there were two main highlights, which I’ll share with you in some further posts.  Firstly, the Museu Colecção Berardo, a huge collection of 20th Century art and, rather unsurprisingly for those who know me, the aquarium, which is apparently one of the largest in Europe.
I love the old paving slabs

We left an amazingly sunny Lisbon on Sunday, full of delicious fish and natas, the local custard tarts and returned home to Scotland, where yesterday it was dark all day.  It is so good to have a break!
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