Friday, 27 February 2015

Four Landscape Fabric Postcards for the Stitching Show

Tree by Gillian Cooper
Next week I have a stand and a workshop at the new Stitching Show at the SECC in Glasgow.  It is a very exciting event for me, although it came about in sad circumstances as the reason I am doing this is because the Studio, Loch Lomond couldn't take the place, so they asked if I could take advantage of it.  
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately said yes, whilst inwardly panicking about how I was going to fit it in with the two solo exhibitions I have this winter and it has also given me the impetus to set up teaching classes from my home studio (more shortly).  
Marshes by Gillian Cooper
So I had to think of a quick and easy, preferably hand stitch and limited mess 1 hour workshop rather fast.  I thought making a little landscape postcard would fit nicely.  This week I've been making the samples and packing the kit.
Sunset over sea by Gillian Cooper
Whilst the idea does fit nicely, executing it has proved harder as I haven't done any landscapes or work this small for years and so it has taken some time to get into the mindset.  I think I'm there now, but you should know that I'm not showing you my first effort, which was truly awful and had me really worried about whether I would be able to deliver what I had promised - it would have been a lot easier with a sewing machine, adding details in paint rather than the strict guidelines of fabric and hand stitch.  It's amazing how much my work has changed as that's exactly where I started out and now it proves challenging!
Fields and flowers by Gillian Cooper
Now I'm enjoying making these little pieces daily.  It's good to try something different and hopefully if you are at the Show next week, you'll come and say hello and maybe take the workshop - it's at 3.15 each day. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Taking down the exhibition

Taking down Fractured
My exhibition at the Scottish Storytelling Centre is over and I went through to Edinburgh yesterday to take it down.  As always, an exhibition comes down a lot quicker than it goes up!  It has been a great pleasure showing my work there as it is such a lovely venue (and the cafe is friendly and has good coffee too). 
View of exhibition
Some of my local friends have been asking me during school pick up how the exhibition has been going and whether it was a success.  The honest answer is I don’t know.  I wasn’t there the whole time, but when I was in the building, visitors seemed interested (I didn’t say I’m the artist, look at my amazing work, I just observed their reactions).  Friends who have visited the show have told me how much they enjoyed it, but they are hardly likely to say otherwise – I know I wouldn’t.  So it is hard to measure, partly because I don't know what to measure it against (sales, visitor enjoyment, visitor engagement, future work as a result of the show?).
Two of the Unsung Muses figures
All I know is that I was pleased with how the work looked and it was good to get it out of the studio and into the public domain.  Anything beyond that is then up to the viewers.
Detail of 'Surfacing'
And although it was sad to take down the work, I will be hanging it again in less than a month at FarfieldMill in Cumbria.  So it is good to have something to look forward to and to continue working towards (alongside everything else I’m doing!).

Exhibition View

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Out & About: VAS:T exhibition in Edinburgh

Alice Kettle 
I had an unexpected day out in Edinburgh last week.  My facebook and twitter friend Sue Hotchkis was staying in Edinburgh and got in touch to see if we could meet up at my exhibition.  Unfortunately that was while I was away in Northumberland, but we met at the Royal Scottish Academy/ National Gallery instead on Monday.  It was fantastic to meet her in person and share stories of textile doings and exhibitions.  And it was thanks to her I got to see the wonderful VAS:T exhibition that was on at the Royal Scottish Academy.  Wonderful in the most part due to three enormous Alice Kettle embroideries that filled one of the rooms.  These had huge pictorial impact as I tried to puzzle out the story they were telling and I am afraid I behaved like a true textile person trying to peer at the back to work out how they were done.  I know Alice Kettle generally stitches her work from the back, but trying to figure out how she got such weighty pieces under her sewing machine was staggering.  I don’t think I have the physical strength!  Technically I also loved how she uses a loose bobbin to create different textures on the front (many quilters with their tight thread paintings would have fits – but it does it make Alice’s pieces much better!) and the sheer amount of thread used.
Soft Sea
Paul Furneaux Soft Sea
I hesitate to make such a textile person comment, but it was really refreshing to see these pieces and other textile pieces from the open exhibition hanging in such a gallery, known primarily for painting.  But perhaps my point isn’t a sense of justice, more that they seemed right there and no less important than those using more traditional painterly mediums. 
Carmen Groza – Poussieres d’etoiles
Given I had limited time due to having to get back for school pick up I didn’t have a huge amount of time to see the Scottish Drawing exhibition, which was also on.  It has some beautiful pieces, some showing how a simple mark made with black ink or charcoal can be so evocative.  I think I liked them better than the detailed ones!
So thanks Sue for a great day out.  Reminds me I need to get out more often!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Rest & Relaxation: photos from a week in Northumberland

Sunrise at Craster

The last week we went on our annual family holiday to Northumberland.  For the first time, neither R nor I had to go to work for any of the week (although I did take some work with me!), which was lovely and made it feel even more relaxing than normal.
Snowdrops at Alnwick Gardens
As this is about the fifth year in a row we have been to Craster in the February break, we end up doing the same things each year and I take lots of photos.  So we went to Alnwick Garden and the fountains were amazing as were the snowdrops.  And of course Lindesfarne is a great place to visit.  This year we spent more time exploring the island – benefit of the kids being slightly older – and I had fun photographing the landscape.  Looking over the dunes, it felt almost lunar. 
Sand dunes at Lindesfarne

Tide patterns at Lindesfarne
And like Pauline Burbidge, who is inspired by the sea and sand at Lindesfarne, I also photographed the patterns left by the tide on the enormous expanses of sand.  I drew the line at drawing (no pun intended!) as it was literally freezing. 
Sand ripples at Lindesfarne

Sunrise at Craster
Again, as usual, we had beautiful weather and the sun rises and sunsets were awe inspiring.  New for this year, we went for a night walk, but it was cloudy so there are no star photos – maybe that’s the goal for next year!
Sunset at Craster

Waves at Craster



Monday, 9 February 2015

More daily drawings

Inktense on paper. Drawing by Gillian Cooper
Continuing on my sporadic posting about my daily drawing, here are a few of the recent ones. 
Pencil on paper.  Drawing by Gillian Cooper
Daily is definitely overstating the case, but on the weekdays I’m at home I try and spend the first 20-30 minutes of my day drawing.  It is very relaxing and a good way to prepare myself for the workday ahead and prioritise what I’m going to do (and if I’m being brutally honest catch up with some TV I’ve missed on my i-Pad in the background...!).
Inktense on paper. Drawing by Gillian Cooper
It is difficult to stop some days as it is generally very pleasurable.  I’ve also been getting a bit looser and working from my imagination a bit rather than just drawing from photos, which was the original intention.  Whilst there is nothing wrong in this, I was trying to be a bit more disciplined and improve my drawing skills rather than ‘invent’ and ‘cover up’, which are my normal techniques.

Pen on paper. Drawing by Gillian Cooper
Anyway, I’m curious to know which style you like best.
Inktense on paper. Drawing based on tile pattern by Gillian Cooper

Inktense on paper. Drawing by Gillian Cooper
Inspired by my 7 year old's drawing.  She is so proud that I based this on her drawing that she has framed the original!  I think hers works better - it is freer somehow.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Design decisions: the making of Fractured

Fractured by Gillian Cooper
Sharp eyed readers may have noticed on my photos of my exhibition at the Scottish StorytellingCentre that there was another new piece of work there which I haven't written about.  It is a piece I have been intending to make for ages, but I only finished it at the very last moment (the day before I hung the show).
It started life on my floor drawn out on lining paper and I walked over it for several weeks, before it got so grubby and damaged I decided to start again. 
Second version of the figure
I also think that I had been holding back making it because I wasn’t completely convinced of the design and needed to think through all the technicalities of how I was going to make it.  So it was redrawn and I then made the figure shape.
Cutting the figure
The kids were horrified when I took the scissors to it and cut it into the pieces.  
The chopped up figure
Originally, I was going to stitch it to strips of patched silk.  This then changed to clustered pieces.  Finally, I decided to make the silk as one complete background.  
Stitching the silk background
The mega downside of this was the size, especially as I was using Vilene as a backing as it was very difficult to manipulate under the sewing machine.  I made it in two long strips, then stitched them together.
Tacking the two strips together
So I added the figure onto this background, played around with where the pieces were going to go, stood back... and... realised that it didn’t work.  
Before adjusting the tonal balance
I photographed it to confirm that it didn’t work and made it black and white.  
The black and white version
Which just proved it further.  There wasn’t sufficient tone differentiation between the background and the foreground. 
With the organza over the background
I tried adding a pale blue organza layer over the background, but it didn't make enough difference.
With rapid haste, the background got made lighter with paintstiks, which also added more texture, thus improving the piece.  The figure was darkened by overpainting, several times to get a darker shade.
The figure exploding out over the background
When I put it back together again, the next decision was exactly how to layout the figure pieces.  I decided to make it easy to read as a figure, rather than having them spread out more randomly as shown above.  Which do you think is better?
Stitching the figure to the background

These were stitched down in place and the piece made ready for hanging, with all of several hours to spare.  It is rather big (8 feet high) and I’m not sure I want to make another piece so large, but I do like the idea of the fractured figure, so I think there may be further versions of this to come.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Revealing new figures

Detail of Unsung Muse by Gillian Cooper

And finally, here are the two new figures I’ve been making. At the private view on Friday at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, a number of people were asking how they were made (thanks to all that came along - I had a lovely time and hope you did too). 
Silk ready to be bondawebbed

Unlike the earlier figures, which were made of cotton, these are made from the silk organza which I dyed in pale colours to keep the translucency. 
First layer bonded in place
The organza was then backed with bondaweb, a layer of heat melting glue.  I cut it up into pieces and then laid them out on top of the shape I’d already drawn out.  I then bonded them together using the iron, before stitching them in place to keep them permanently together. 
Both layers bonded in place - a much richer colour

Using paper stencils and paintstiks, I added details, which once it was dry, I stitched around.
With painstik detail
Sounds simple – doesn’t it!  I now need to go and clean the iron and get rid of all the glue I’ve somehow melted on to it.  I’m not quite sure how it got there as I was so careful but as always some ends up on the iron.
Centre of one of the new muses

These figures are very different to the solid ones.  They also look very different when placed on a wall compared with hanging in a room.  
Hanging on their own on the studio wall

The colour is a lot less intense when hung mid-air, which is the main way I want them to be seen, so that you can look at the other figures through them.  However, I also like them on the wall with the rich, bright, intense colour; rather different to the others.

Hanging mixed in with some of the solid Muses

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