Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Seasons Greetings

Seasons Greetings from Balfron!

I have been a bit slothful in my blog posts this month as yet again Christmas fever sets in.  I am looking forward to returning to work in the New Year and although Christmas has not even past yet, I am already sneaking into my studio to get some work done.

I have lots of exciting news to share with you, but all that can wait until the New Year.  For the moment, all I want to do is with you and your loved ones a happy Christmas (or whatever you want to celebrate at this time of year) and a wonderful 2015.

This picture is one that the little one and I printed when she wanted to make her own Christmas cards.  If you are one of the people who would expect to receive a home-made card from her and are feeling a bit hard done by, don’t be –she never quite got round to turning her prints into cards or sending them.  You may get one of them next year instead!

Friday, 5 December 2014

In my studio: admin and spot the errors

New York Beauty
This week I’ve been having a bit of a sort-out and catch-up week.  Photos of accounts, admin and business meetings are not very exciting, so instead, here are some images of ‘humility’ quilts I designed for an article in Popular Patchwork a number of years ago. 
54 or Fight!
Quilting is full of lovely myths and one of these is that Amish quilters believe that as only God is perfect, it would be a sin for their quilts to be faultless so they add an imperfection.  To my mind, this is the ultimate sin of pride, to believe you have to add an error because otherwise it would be flawless.  I can’t believe that this attitude would sit well with what I know of Amish communities and indeed it seems unlikely and most quilt historians have decided it isn’t true.  However, it is a nice idea and perhaps it came about as an excuse by quilters who had made an obvious error in a quilt, rather than admit their mistake, put it down to a humility block.

Irish Chain
So for a bit of fun, here are some ‘humility’ quilts I designed – each one has a mistake in the pattern – can you spot them all? I designed them in EQ7.  And looking at them now, I'm not sure I can spot all the errors.  Hope you can!
Mariner's Compass

Flower Basket

Bear's Paw

Monday, 1 December 2014

Out & About: Lakes and Dales

Derwent Water
Last week the children had three teacher training days off school (those teachers must need a lot of training!).  So we decided to make the most of them and headed off down to the Lake District/ Yorkshire Dales for a few days.  We stayed in a lovely cottage at the delightfully named Unthank.  There was a gallery right besides us – the UpFront Gallery.  Unfortunately we were never there whilst it was open, but the work looked good through the windows.

CastleRigg Stone Circle
We had a lovely time visiting lots of the tourist sites around Keswick, which of course included a visit to the Pencil Shop!  We had fun trying out our purchases in the evening and I managed to get the kids enthused too.
Trying out our new purchases
Over on the Yorkshire side, we were introduced to a fantastic cheese shop just outside Settle (thanks Louise!) and also had a great visit to Farfield Mill.  We were really enchanted by some of the work on display.  The Bound Together group who made books and other pieces of mixed media art are incredibly talented, creating beautiful, fragile looking objets d’art.  The kids loved Tania Sneesby’s fairytale interpretations in fabric.  In fact, we loved them too.  They were deceptively simple.  Of course, I didn’t do the sensible thing and take photos!
Derwent Water from the hills above Ashness Bridge
Part of the reason for the visit to Farfield Mill is really, really thrilling as I’m going to have a solo exhibition there next year from 21 March to 10 May.  It was exciting to see the space and to start thinking about where the work is going to go (and what other work I want to make). 
Sunset from the Pencil Museum car park!
As well as this exhibition, I have a number of other things that will be going on over the next few months (more info when things are firmed up enough to share), so I’m going to be very busy.  I think the kids are going to be eating a lot of baked beans unless someone can come up with some super fast meal suggestions!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Demonstrating at Holmwood House

I’m not quite sure what the Couper family who originally owned Holmwood House would have thought of me demonstrating my textile techniques in one of their bedrooms, but it seemed to go down well with the visitors yesterday! 

It was a really busy day, with lots of people coming through and as well as buying some of the beautiful crafts that were on sale, could watch me at work.  In fact it was so busy I didn’t get a chance to stop and get some photos of me in action.  I took these photos when I set up on Saturday. 

Some lucky people got a chance to try printing with the gelli plate and try free machine quilting (I think I should have been on commission!) and some lucky primary school teachers went away with great ideas for Christmas arts and crafts projects.  Obviously I had a ball – a captive audience with whom to share my passion for my textiles. 

In demonstrating, I made lots of great prints and I’m really excited about how to take them forward, although I may have to put the small pieces to one side for a while to work on the bigger ones.
I will add some of the pieces to my website soon so you can have a chance to buy one too.
And finally, after such a great day, I arrived home to a quiet house, which was a bit suspicious.  However, it was positive silence as all three children were busy making a fantastic dinner for me as a belated birthday present, using the cook book they had given me.  Dinner was delicious, especially as it was such an unexpected treat.

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Big Reveal: New Collection of Small Works

Forgotten Figures I by Gillian Cooper
Finally, I’ve finished some of the series of smaller pieces I’ve been working on.  And here they are.  Each of these pieces is 8x6in – the smallest I’ve ever made.
Forgotten Figures II by Gillian Cooper
I’ve really enjoyed working small.  I love the speed (there are about another 15-20 in progress as well as these ones) and playing around with composition by cropping the slightly larger pieces to fit within the frame.  All of these are now mounted ready for sale at Holmwood House on Sunday (and afterwards).  Come and see me at Holmwood House in Glasgow on Sunday afternoon if you have time and you will see exactly how these pieces were made.
Forgotten Figures III by Gillian Cooper
These pieces are all wholecloth too – no piecing before I printed, painted, stencilled and stitched.  In some ways I think I would be too precious with a piece I had already made to stick it onto the printing plate just to see what happens.  Perhaps that will change with experience, but for 8x6in there are already a lot of techniques involved, so I’m not convinced it would add anything. 
Forgotten Figures IV by Gillian Cooper
I’ve also altered my colour palette to some extent.  Other people have been commenting on this rather than me, as to me it seems entirely natural and not really anything different to what I was doing.  This is where the insights of others come in handy.  Do you have any views on these pieces?

Forgotten Figures V by Gillian Cooper
I intend adding them to my website for sale sometime soon and reviving my Etsy shop to start being a bit more commercial about my art.  There.  I’ve stated it.  Now I have to go through with it as I’ve put it in black and white.  I still want to make totally unsellable installations, but even I don’t have them on permanent display in my house so I can hardly expect others to do the same and it would be nice to have some room under our bed/in our garage/under the stairs again rather than it being taken up with artwork.
Forgotten Figures VI by Gillian Cooper

Monday, 17 November 2014

In my studio: lots of daily drawing

Greek Goddess sketch by Gillian Cooper in Conte Crayon
A few months ago I told you I was trying to do a daily drawing and shared some of the early pictures.  This felt like a bit of a luxury, taking time out from making the things I needed to do, but at the same time, I know it is important for my artistic practice.  So I’ve carried on with my (almost) daily luxury and each day I start with the treat of a large mug of tea and a blank piece of paper.  Almost all my drawings are related to my continuing Ancient Greek Goddess obsession, although occasionally it may be another ancient object such as a pattern from a vase or a little horse sculpture instead.  I started out in 4B pencil, moved into 8B as I love the smudge effect.
Inspired by a Greek Octopus pattern on a vase by Gillian Cooper.  Sketch in pastels

Currently, I’m playing around with the media more and more.  Yesterday was soft pastels, which I love, today was NeoColor, which I love a lot less!  Inktense and Conté crayons and fine tipped pens have also been hits.
Detail of Greek figure in pen by Gillian Cooper
Now my biggest problem is stopping and getting on with other work as I get very absorbed in the drawing and don’t want to stop, so I am devoting more and more time to it.  However, it is very good thinking time and hopefully I will be able to develop some of these ideas further.
Same detail as above but in Inktense by Gillian Cooper

Do you have a favourite medium to draw in?

My daughter getting in on the act - with more pastel on her than the paper!
Terracotta figure in pen by Gillian Cooper
Side view of Greek figure in Conte Crayon by Gillian Cooper

Friday, 14 November 2014

In my studio: creating a collection of small works

Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper
Over the past month or so, I have been working concurrently on lots of small pieces.  Some have worked; others will remain samples (a polite term for failures!).  What is really exciting is that they are all coming together now and will be ready to take to Holmwood House for the Meet Your Maker event next Sunday (23rd November 11-4).
Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper
The completed pieces will be hand-dyed then mono-printed using acrylic paint, followed by more colour added using Inktense pencils.  I’ve made stencils and used them with Shiva Paintstiks over the top.  Parts are then padded before they are machine quilted.
Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper
I met my dear friend Marjory Mackinven for lunch today and showed her some of them, saying I was worried that these are too simple.  However, having listed out all the techniques involved, I think I am now agreeing with her that they are more complicated that I had realised!  It was lovely to see Marjory and catch up and we had a fabulous lunch at the new Three Sisters Bake Cafe in Killearn Village Hall.  Highly recommended if you are in the area.

Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper
Finding the balance between strong design and suitable levels of detail is an interesting challenge.  I often find that as I add more and more detail, the composition becomes less clear and so the overall design is not as good.  The good news is, though, any overworked pieces can always be cut up and used in another piece.  Do you know when to stop?

Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper
The back of one of the pieces, showing the padding

Work-in-progress by Gillian Cooper

Monday, 10 November 2014

Out & About: the C&G students' show

Yesterday saw the exhibition of our C&G students.  It went up relatively fast on Saturday and it was gratifying to see how much work there was and how far the students have come over the two years. IT has been such a pleasure to teach and I will miss them.

On Saturday evening, a lovely group of their families and friends braved the horrid weather and came and suitably admired their work.  Then yesterday it was open to the public.  As with all exhibitions, it came down much faster than it went up!  Luckily though, there will be a second outing for their main pieces at the new Stitching, Sewing & Quilting Show at the SECC over the first weekend in March.  One or two of the final quilts still had some finishing required, so it will be lovely to see them completed.  If you are around in Glasgow that weekend, it will be worth a visit.

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