Monday, 27 January 2014

Another completed piece - for the SAQA Trunk Collection

Forgotten title by Gillian Cooper
I’m in shock – it’s only January and I’ve completed two pieces of work already this year.  Okay, the other one was a bit of cheat as I had done most of the work last year, and this one is only 7x10in, but still...

SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) has a call out for pieces this size for a Trunk Show, to let people see the full spectrum of the wonderful world of art quilting and all it encompasses. 

For this piece, I used some of the printed fabric I have been making and it is basically a sample for a bigger piece that is now underway.  It is rather time consuming as with only one screen, I can’t get many prints in one go (three to be precise) before I have to clean it, let it dry, re-ink, let it dry before printing again.  It may be a while before you see the large piece!

I sent it off last week to the States for the Trunk Show and before that spent ages pondering the title, which I promptly forgot and didn’t write down anywhere.  I’m now spending some time setting up a proper list of my artwork so I don’t do it again and so I don’t have to keep re-measuring everything every time I send off details of my work... oh to be organised!  Anyone got any good organisation ideas for me?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

In someone else's studio: Life Drawing

Last night I did something I hadn’t done for about 15 years and I went to a life drawing class.  Ewen Duncan has been teaching adult art classes for a while locally and whilst I’ve always fancied going along, I never quite made the time or organised the childcare.  However, the opportunity came up for trying just three sessions of life drawing and I thought why not. 

My first life drawing for almost 15 years
Although, as you can see, I’m never going to be a portraitist, I really enjoy life drawing and find it very absorbing.  It is meant to be very good for your drawing skills as it is difficult to hide any errors as we tend to know what a person looks like.  I was encouraged that I still had some drawing skills, but I do draw regularly, just more abstracted. It will be interesting to see if I can improve over the three weeks or not.  And I'm hoping it will help improve the faces on my Unsung Muses.

Ewen runs his classes as Art4YouScotland and if you are local, they are well worth checking out.  If you’re not local, he runs special weekends and there is some lovely accommodation nearby!

Monday, 20 January 2014

How to: 5 easy steps to make fabric beads

The other weekend at the C&G class we were looking at ways of embellishing your work.  As my work is generally unadorned and bling is a definite no-no, this meant lots of research for me.  This is one of my favourite parts of teaching C&G – I have a great excuse to go and look up artists and ideas and techniques and learn more myself.

One of the things I came across was making your own beads using straws (an article in a Quilting Arts freebie on embellishment techniques by Gail Ellspermann – you can get it here).  As I was looking quickly for lots of different ideas, all I took away was straws, fabric and glue and looking back at the article now, I’ve made mine in a completely different way. 

So to make my fabric beads, you need:

·         Small strips of fabric  approx 1-2in wide
·         Old threads, plain, fancy, metallic – whatever needs using up
·         Drinking straws
·         Pritt Stick style glue
·         PVA glue in a bottle with a nozzle (mine was Sainsbury’s own brand kids PVA)
·         Scalpel knife or very sharp scissors

They really are very simple to make, but I did find it quite addictive, making many more than I needed for the class and the artwork I’m going to put them on.

1.      Cover one side of the fabric with pritt stick glue.
Wrapping the glue covered fabric around the straw

2.     Stick this to the straw (below the bend if using a bendy straw or at least 2in from the end if not) at approx 45 degree angle.

3.     Wrap the fabric around the straw until you reach the end of either the fabric or straw.  Cut off any excess fabric
4.     Run a line of PVA glue down the fabric and then wrap the thread(s) you want to use down the straw, rubbing the glue in as you go.  Repeat at least twice with the glue, adding more thread if you want. Leave to dry.
Drying straws

5.     ‘Crack’ the pritt glue by gently squashing the fabric, then pull out the straw.  Cut to the desired size using a scalpel knife, and recoat each bead with PVA if need to make firmer or to tidy in ends.
Pile of finished straws waiting to be cut

As I said really easy!  To be contrary, rather than make them in lovely bright colours, I ended up wanting brown beads, although it is amazing how the colour is influenced by even the smallest amount of thread. 
Beads stitched onto my current work in progress

Have you made anything like these?  How have you used them?  The C&G class came up with some great ideas for embellishment and we sent them away to make an over-embellished sample.  I can’t wait to see the results next month.



Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Art with kids: drawing with oil pastels

Drawing based on Miro

Yesterday, after school, my daughter pulled out the line ‘you never play with me, mummy.’  In some ways she is correct as bizarrely I’m not good as imaginative play.  I can’t sit down and have conversations with dollies and play vroom-vroom with cars for more than a couple of minutes without getting terminally bored.  Unfortunately, swing parks have the same effect on me.  However, I do like doing things with the kids, like baking and making, so our compromise was to draw together.  She wanted it to be a competition to be judged by her brothers, but perhaps because I was scared of losing, I declared it a draw and was very pleased with my pun!


Guess whose drawing is whose!

We copied a postcard of a Miro sculpture which we had seen at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2012.  I was going to say last year, but it isn’t any more.  We used some new oil pastels which I had been given as a Christmas present years ago.  I don’t tend to draw with oil pastels, preferring the chalky variety but they were fun to try out and to use the limited palette of six metallic colours.  It was partly a case of taking my own advice as at the last C&G weekend, I was encouraging all the students to move out of their comfort zone and try different drawing materials.  The little one enjoyed it too and we had just about removed all the oil pastel marks from her hands and face before school today, although I did notice a greeny tinge on her forehead as I said goodbye...
The original postcard

Do you have a preferred drawing medium? I like pastels, ink and fine line pens if I had limit what I use.

Monday, 13 January 2014

New work: Loops of Time

'Loops of Time' by Gillian Cooper
 I’m really excited today because for the first time in ages I’m able to share some completely finished work with you.  In fact it is so long since I entirely finished a piece, I don’t have a title for finished work for the blog heading!  I have ‘inspiration’; ‘in my studio’, but nothing for actually completed.  I’m not great at naming work, but I think that this is definitely ‘Loops of Time’.
'Loops of Time' (detail) by Gillian Cooper
This piece has been in progress many months as regular readers may know from the teaser photos I’ve posted.  All I needed to do on Friday was to hand stitch the hanging sleeves and check that it hung okay.  I’m really pleased with it, partly because I tried out some new ideas/techniques, but also because of the subject matter.  Although it may not look like it, it is a continuation of my ‘Unsung Muses’ series, but this time, rather than represent goddesses on the work, I have been playing with the faded patterns from some of the ancient sculptures and make them mine.  I have always loved patterning and get really frustrated on trips to old museums/ houses where there are postcards available of the artwork, but nothing about the amazing wood carved patterns in the ceiling etc.  So in this piece, I wanted to work only with patterns rather than full figures.  Although it comes from the ancient figures, I also feel it references music and I deliberately placed the front patterns with a sense of rhythm.   Hopefully that comes across.
'Loops of Time' (detail) by Gillian Cooper
Technically, for those interested in such matters, the fabrics are all hand-dyed, then over-painted in dye, acrylic and oils.  The background is fairly heavily quilted, with the four front pieces added on later.  They are stiffened with Vilene to keep their shape.  To give you a sense of the scale, it measures 42in (107cm) wide by 24in (61cm) high.

The piece is for sale (£500 if anyone has some spare cash!) and I will add it to my etsy store soon-ish.  My plan is to get my website sorted in January and then my selling sites sorted in February.

I’d love any feedback you have on this piece as it is something a bit different from what I have been working on.  Any comments gratefully received!  Also have you completed any work yet in 2014?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Inspiration: Mandy Patullo in Popular Patchwork

Thread and Thrift Red Star by Mandy Pattullo
The latest edition of Popular Patchwork (February 2014) goes on sale today and includes my feature on the quilter, Mandy Pattullo. 

Mandy’s work in her gallery at last summer’s Festival of Quilts had really impressed me and it was a pleasure to find out more about it.  Reflecting on it, having mentioned improvisational quilting in my last post, I think Mandy’s work falls very definitely in this category, along with fantastic use of recycling.  She is not jumping on the trendy vintage/recycling bandwagon; it is something she obviously passionately believes in and has practiced for many years.  She is involved in running vintage fairs and this is where she sources her fabric and old over-loved quilts, as well as at auctions etc.  Working intuitively, she refashions them into these beautiful works of art.  On-trend at the moment, but not trendy; you can see the skill and zeal behind them.  Her embroidery/quilting is lovely and delicate, truly enhancing her fabrics.

If you don’t know Mandy’s work, check out her website. It really is inspirational.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Inspiration: Quilt Improv by Lucie Summers

Lucie Summers - Garden Wall quilt

Yesterday was spent polishing up my article for Popular Patchwork on Lucie Summers.  Lucie is the author of the new-ish book ‘Quilt Improv’ and I just love the way her book looks.

Reading through it, I had a revelation.  There is a name for the style of patchwork I most like to make.  All this time I’ve been striving to be a perfect corners type of quilter has been wasted.  I’m not that type of quilter.  I’m actually a quilt improviser and that is totally acceptable.  As Lucie listed out in her book what makes a quilt improv, I found myself nodding in agreement.  I’ve always hated instructions which state ‘First cut 336 2x4in blue rectangles’.  I think that is why I’ve never really made a quilt from a book – it just puts me off.  At least if I design it, I can try and fool myself that I’m not really cutting 336 identical units by not cutting them all in one go and having blocks at varying stages of production. 

Lucie Summers - sample blocks
So what is quilt improv?  Using the fabric you have; not worrying about matching points or corners; working intuitively rather than slavishly following your pattern or initial design idea.  This sounds exactly like what I do!  Of course as Lucie states, this is not an excuse for shoddy workmanship; the quality of workmanship still needs to be high.

After this fantastic revelation, the rest of the book was a joy to read.  Lucie shares her own style of improv techniques and then walks you through the process of making a number of quilts this way.  Some reviews of this book on Amazon have missed the point and said the instructions for copying the quilts were not good enough.  The whole point is to show the process, not to exactly copy her quilts.  I love that the book shows her original inspiration and first sketches as well as the final quilt.  It really helps explain the process.
Quilt Improv by Lucie Summers, published by F&W Media

If you are looking for a gorgeously photographed book to take you away from creating traditional quilts, without being scary, I would definitely recommend this book. You can find out more about the book at




Monday, 6 January 2014

Welcome into 2014: my (not really) resolutions

Today's work in progress

Happy 2014!  Despite an inauspicious start of a three day migraine, I’m now really positive that it is going to be a great year, and being honest, many of my years start with a three day migraine, so I’m not going to let that put me off.  Slightly more worrying is that my i-Pod dock seems to have just stopped functioning whilst I was typing that last sentence, but let’s pretend everything is fine and it is going to be wonderful.

Sometimes I can get really caught up with day-to-day living and not see the bigger picture of what I am doing and where I am going, so I decided this year to take the advice of lots of those gurus out there and actually look at what I achieved in 2013, as well as what I didn’t manage and look to 2014 and (possibly) set some resolutions.  I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions as generally mine are made in the post Christmas bloat period, whilst worrying about my bank balance and feeling a bit miserable due to the lack of sun.  If I get through to today (6th January) without breaking any, I’m doing well and they are all but forgotten by the end of the month.  But this time, I’ve decided to be a bit more realistic and hopefully by sharing my aims with you, it will encourage me to keep going (encouragement/ reminders in June always welcome!).
Sketch paintings from today

So 2013 in a nutshell: I did more than I realised and more than I probably should have!  But it was fun: PomPoms, starting to teach C&G, more workshops and talks than previous years, some exhibitions of my own work, I sold some work, I helped set up and run an arts festival, I wrote about textiles and became more social media savvy.

For 2014, I’m not having resolutions as such, but here are my goals, which can be summed up by the word ‘believe’:
·         Make (and finish!) a significant body of work
·         Make a concerted effort to get my work exhibited
·         Facilitate the selling of my work so people can by it
·         Enter some juried shows
·         Use social media so people can hear about my work and improve my seriously out of date website
·         Write more  - on this blog and other articles

If you notice, I’m being careful – none of these say the things I want will happen, just that I will do my part to make it happen.
Breakdown printing waiting for the dye to soak in
These are my work related goals.  For those interested, my personal goals relate mainly to work/life balance after the frantic first half of last year!  Yes, I want to exercise more and lose some weight – who doesn’t?  But when it came to the crunch, it was all about balance rather than saying I will run a 10K race in 2014 (which would be nice!).

So a bit of a rambling post today – but for me, it is something important to share.  Do you believe in New Year’s Resolutions?  If so, what are you doing in 2014?
PS - good news - the i-Pod speakers are not broken, the fuse had gone in another socket, thus fusing half the house.  I only noticed the missing music!
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