Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Painful progress: setting up my new studio

There are two things in life with which I struggle: tidying (and cleaning) and admin.  The last week has been full of them both.
Furniture waiting to be made for Gillian Cooper Studio

I desperately want to start making again now my exhibition is up, but before I am allowing myself to do that, I need to get my studio organised for teaching.  In the abstract this is really exciting.  In reality, it is a bit of a nightmare because I need to tidy, organise and do the admin.  The teaching bit will be fun as is designing the classes, but removing all my stuff from the studio and working out what goes where – not really in my skill set!  I did start last week with good intentions and I was making slow progress, but on Saturday, I was ordered by R to stop pfaffing about, take everything out and start from an empty shell adding in only what was required.  This was a nice idea, but of course, where do we store everything in the meantime?  So we got as far as removing everything that was on the floor.  The playroom now has an extra table, the hall the embroidery thread unit, the kitchen the comfy chair and the spare bedroom and its en-suite bathroom are full of sewing machines, boxes of fabric and dyeing stuff.  What R has forgotten is last time he suggested this approach was when we had the studio built four years ago and I’m still emptying my stuff out of the old room I used as a studio.  This has become urgent as it is being turned into a kids bedroom (why does everything happen at once?!), so goodness knows when I will see any of these rooms again!
One of the less flattering photos ever of me!

At least it has meant that I got the floor in the studio repainted on Sunday.  I was fired up to get all the new furniture in, but I can’t for at least 72 hours.  So come tomorrow evening, hopefully the studio will look like a new teaching one, even if all the tidying and sorting needs to continue.  Any good tidying tips anyone?  Please do not suggest not buying in the first place or binning everything.  I know that and it is not pretty to watch a grown woman cry!
Just to prove I did the floor myself

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Video of Unsung Muses at Farfield Mill

This is a video of Unsung Muses at Farfield Mill.  [Please note it will not work on Apple products.  Trying to sort out this new technical difficulty]

As I said in my earlier post, I stupidly shot it vertically rather than horizontally as I was shooting it on my phone and the figures are vertical, so it seemed the best way to do it.  Luckily, thanks to a simple google search (“how do I rotate a video”), I found a way to turn it round.   
There is no sound beyond my gentle/spooky footsteps – I didn’t want to add a commentary and my next task is to find a website that has the right type of music to play in the background.  I have a strong sense of what that soundscape should be, but being one degree off tone-deaf, I can’t communicate it to anyone.  It is one of my ambitions though to work with a musician to create an overall exhibition experience, assaulting both sight and sound.  Anyone know of someone daft enough to want to work with me?

This is only my second attempt at video, we rarely even video the kids, preferring to photograph, but it is the best way to document an exhibition like this.  So my goal for my next one I suppose is to add some commentary – do you feel it needs it?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Inspiration: everyday materials, sheep, exhibitions, talks... and Ikea!

I haven’t written an ‘inspiration’ blogpost for a while – I’ve been so busy making the work I was already inspired about and getting everything to exhibition standard, which also involves remembering to pack things like staple guns and labels.

So now that the exhibition is up, I feel I can get back to normal and start looking again and get inspired, rather than have tunnel vision and just focus on the show.

On Friday morning when I went to photograph the exhibition, it was a beautifully sunny spring morning.  I intended to go for a walk in the countryside in my inappropriate footwear (see I was too focussed on the exhibition), but instead I was distracted by this tractor and other old industrial, rusting machinery in one of the workshops besides Farfield Mill.  I think they are wonderful.

I did also make it into the fields because I felt I should and the sheep were just crying out (or baa-ing) to be photographed!

On my way home from Farfield, I dropped into the 62 Group’s exhibition at the Upfront Gallery, near Penrith.  There were some interesting pieces, particularly by Catherine Dormor and Hannah Lamb, but unfortunately no photos were allow so I can’t share them with you.

Saturday was also a lovely sunny day, which I spent in the company of the delightful ladies of East, Midlothian and Borders Area of the Quilters’ Guild.  I always intend to take photos of these events, but then I’m so busy delivering the talk (this time about how I get from inspiration to finished quilt) and then discussing the individual pieces with the quilters that I forget.  Anyway, they were great and some of them even enjoyed my lame jokes.

On the way home I popped into Ikea to buy the furniture I need to turn my studio into a teaching space.  This week is going to be spent tidying out the studio and then, hopefully, putting the furniture together – wish me luck – I think I’ll need it!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solo exhibition at Farfield Mill

Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill
I'm feeling a bit de-mob happy today. My exhibition at Farfield Mill is on the walls and hanging from the ceiling.  I'm really pleased with how it looks - obviously you are entitled to your own opinion. And so after several very intense months, the pressure is off slightly and I'm going to have a day or two off and relax.  Bliss!
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

It is a lovely feeling seeing the work at Farfield as it is a beautiful, well lit large space and I was able to place the figures where I wanted - no restrictions due to where the lines could be tied off.  The figures have space to breathe, but still have a 'conversation' with each other.  I had fun yesterday taking photos of them through the middles of other ones.  
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill
Sara, the centre manager, was a fabulous help at hanging the work.  Bizarrely, it was where to put the wall pieces that caused more issues than the figures.  I think this is because they have been made over a period and so keep developing, whereas the figures, even though there are three new ones, have stayed pretty static in concept.  
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

I made a short, unpolished video on my phone, so you could get a feel for the exhibition, but I shot it vertically and when I try to load it onto the blog, it is showing sideways...  I tried making some videos on my expensive camera with a tripod, but they haven't worked - the movement is too jerky.  Another skill to work at when I have a moment!
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

The exhibition is up until 10 May, so there is plenty of time to see it and there are another two special exhibitions on at the same time.  I'm also running a workshop at Farfield on 10 May and there are still some places available if you are interested. 
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill

Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper at Farfield Mill, in the Foyer

Monday, 16 March 2015

Out & About: Turning Point quilt exhibition Stirling

Turning Point: Flight
On Saturday, I spent a very pleasurable afternoon in the company of the Turning Point group of quilt artists at the opening of their new exhibition at the Smith Art Gallery in Stirling. 
Turning Point: Poppies

I had been rather surprised and a bit nervous when they had asked me to say a few words at the opening but I also felt honoured. It turned out that it was surprisingly easy to write what I wanted to say as they are such a lovely, friendly, welcoming group. At my first Loch Lomond Quilt Show, they 'adopted' me as I was on my own and we shared the most hilarious dinner.  Since then, I have loved seeing their collections of work, which have been exhibited up and down the country and abroad.  
Turning Point: Pewter

This latest exhibition featured a number of collections of quilts and for the first time the group had invited three others to join them for ‘Elements’ and ‘Pewter’.  Turning Point's standard format is to work to a theme with a common size of quilt but to leave the interpretation completely open to each artist.  This was especially visible in the 'Elements' group, which had a really bright quilt based on the element Bismuth by Alison Drayson as well as Shona McQuistan's human figure containing the 'elements of me'
Alison Drayson 'Bismuth'

The walls of the Smith Gallery are bright red, which shouldn't have worked with the brightly coloured artwork, but did very well. It was also great to see such a turnout of people along to see the work.  And my own little talk got sandwiched between introductions by lots of local dignitaries so I needn't have worried about it!
Turning Point plus dignitaries

The exhibition is on until the end of April and is well worth a visit if you can make it.  There is also a permanent exhibition about Stirling and a temporary exhibit about the Miners Strike at the Smith, making it a fabulous mix of things to see.

Visitors enjoying the quilts at the Smith Art Gallery

More Poppies by Turning Point

Turning Point: Ten

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Launching Gillian Cooper Studio - classes in Balfron

Dyeing silk in the studio - one of the Friday activities
I realise that I keep hinting at, but haven't properly explained, what I am doing with my teaching practice. Well, this is mega exciting.  After years of waiting for people to contact me to come and deliver talks and workshops to their groups (which I am still offering by the way), I decided it was time to be in control and take some action.  When I had my current studio built four years ago I always intended to teach from it.  However, the intervening four years have been incredibly busy, first with my work at the Festival of Quilts, then with the PomPom Festival, then teaching C&G for the Loch Lomond Studio. Unfortunately the Loch Lomond people are no longer able to continue with their teaching studio and Ruth gave me a bit of a kick and said you need to set up on your own and keep teaching C&G.
Prints drying in the studio - one of the Friday classes

There is never going to be the perfect time to do something like this, and the last three months certainly were not perfect, but Ruth and Isabel from the Loch Lomond Studio had kindly offered me the stand they had at last weekend's Stitching Show at the SECC. This gave me a goal to aim for, which was useful as I love working under pressure!
Sketchbook exploration

So at the Show I launched Gillian Cooper Studio. From April, I will be offering beginners patchwork and quilting classes on a Thursday morning and Fridays will be fun days concentrating on one technique each Friday, generally messy!  C&G Patchwork and Quilting starts in June, over seven weekends and one summer school each year for two years.  I am able to offer both the certificate and the diploma levels.  As the classes will be in my studio, the groups will be small - limited to seven people.  I've been really pleased with the uptake already, particularly in the C&G classes.  I'm so looking forward to teaching adults from home as having learned as an adult myself, I understand where the students are coming from.  It's also a great way for me to keep up-to-date with my own skills and what is current in the textile world as I need to stay informed for the students (what a great excuse!).
Machine stitching
If you're interested, there's more on my website here and I'm sure I will be sharing photos from the classes soon!

Hand stitching English paper piecing

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Stitching, Sewing and Quilting Show at the SECC, Glasgow

All set up and waiting for visitors
Well, that was one of the busiest weekends of my life!  My teaching from home studio business was launched at the Stitching Show at the SECC Glasgow. Unfortunately, the Loch Lomond Quilt Show ladies can’t continue with the City & Guilds teaching in the near future and they suggested (kicked me) that I took it on, especially as I had always intended to teach from home.  They also really kindly offered me the stand at the Show as they couldn’t use it.
Some of the students' work

It has been a fabulous few days and the feedback from visitors was amazing, including a number signing up for classes (C&G over 7 weekends a year, Friday Fun Days and Thursday morning beginners).  Our C&G students from the Loch Lomond group also had a show of their work and being surrounded by their beautiful quilts definitely enhanced the experience for guests.
People trying the Inktense on fabric
Some of the samples visitors made
Because I don’t like to make things easy for myself, I thought it would be fun to do something on the stand rather than just talk about the classes.  Loads of people tried their hand at using Inktense on fabric (thank you Derwent for the pencils) and really enjoyed it.  I totally related to those who said ‘I have a box of these at home but don’t know how to use them’.  How many purchases like that do I have hiding in a cupboard?!

I was so busy, I barely moved off the stand for the four days, which was great but meant I didn’t really get a look at the other work on display. Just down from me however, was Linzi Upton’s fantastic yurt, coracle and pillars (sorry Linzi if that’s not the correct word), which I’ve written about before and also the ‘It Happens’ group.  Each time I breezed past to change the water for painting I saw something else of their beautiful work.  The group’s work fitted well together – no identical sized pieces required – and it had a lovely tranquil air to it.  The photos aren’t great as the lighting was truly awful, but hopefully they give you an idea.

View of It Happens exhibition

View of It Happens exhibition

So now I am back in the calm-chaos of my studio, surrounded by boxes that need unpacking and a frighteningly looming deadline of my next solo exhibition at Farfield Mill, which I hang in 9 days time.  Not that I am counting... honest!

Anne Tuck's quilt - part of It Happens
A little postcard Sue Grimes made in my workshop

The dropcloth from under the Inktense painting.  Can't wait to use it!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Using Inktense on fabric

Inktense on fabric by Gillian Cooper
I’m not sure why, but I was rather resistant to Inktense pencils and blocks.  I think it may be because that although people raved about them, when I looked at their work I wasn’t convinced.  It was either a bit pale and uninteresting or very dark.
Inktense on fabric by Gillian Cooper
However, I finally decided I had to try them to see what the fuss was about.  The first attempt my daughter and I made was not terribly inspiring, but since then I’ve become a real convert.  The colour can be intense or pale and adding the ink to wet fabric gives a lovely wash style effect.  They also work well on paper and have become my ‘go-to’ set of pencils for any drawing I’m doing as then I can wet the colour, paint it in and the draw more on top.  The colour is so much more intense than watercolour and is permanent on fabric once it has been wet.  They have a lovely range of colours that sit nicely with my palette.
I like Inktense so much that I wrote an article about how to use them for Popular Patchwork (January 2015) as part of my ‘Colour onto Cloth’ series, rather than just mention them in passing.  When I was offered a stand at this week’s Stitching, Sewing and Quilting Show at the SECC, Glasgow, I decided I wanted to do something active, rather than just hand out leaflets about my new classes.  And so, Inktense seemed liked the obvious activity.  Not too messy, instant results and fun.  People can come and have a sit down (very important if they are spending a day at a show!) and relax and try something new.  Derwent Pencils, the makers of Inktense, kindly responded to my cheeky request for some blocks and pencils to use and my friend, Luci, who runs an events decoration company, eventsdecor, has passed on to me lots of old white fabric she no longer requires.  It seemed simple, but of course, it requires far more work than that, not least, cutting and ironing all the fabric to be used!
Spare mopping up fabric - will be used in something else
Naturally, I also cannot find the samples I made for the article in Popular Patchwork and so have been playing at making some more, just using Inktense.  Normally, it is a layer in a process for me along with mono printing and paintstiks, rather than just used on its own.  This has been fun and the kids have all had a go too as today was a ‘snow day’ and there was no school.  This was a good activity after all the exertion of sledging!  The kids’ samples are interesting – they use the blocks so different to me and the level of mess was hugely more than my normally very contained area!   
Two of the kids hard at work

I’m looking forward to the Show, but am a bit nervous as it is the first time I’ve done this.  It will definitely be a learning experience for me.  As an incentive to visitors to the Show to sign up for my newsletter, I’m offering them the chance to win a set of Inktense blocks.  If you sign up for my newsletter before the end of Sunday 8 March, I’ll add your name into the draw too.  I promise no junk mail!
The Inktense blocks on offer

One of the kid's pieces hung out to dry

Another of the kids pieces - it's meant to be a solar eclipse

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