Monday, 28 September 2015

Unsung Muses at the European Patchwork Meeting

Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper

I'm still trying to process the European Patchwork Meeting in my head.  In all honesty, it passed in a bit of a blur.  Over a year building up to it and then it is over in four short days.  It was a very busy four days.  The family waited expectantly with me for the doors to open on the first day and the first visitor was very prompt and very positive about the work, which was lovely.  And then there was barely a moment when someone was not looking at the work.  There was definitely an ebb and flow of visitors, timed with the arrival of the shuttle buses, but the rooms were seldom empty.
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper

There was a huge mixture of languages, of which I reckon English was about fifth or sixth in the list.  It felt like there were roughly equal French and German visitors, then large numbers of Dutch and Danish quilters, then Italian and English speakers.  There were also Swedes, Koreans and Russians - a truly international mix.  I only speak two of these languages and my French improved greatly as I learned a lot of French quilting terms.  It also amused me, like in English, how many different ways you could describe a similar term.  There were two words for wadding, like in English (second one being batting in American English).  It was also a bit shaming at how well most visitors spoke English, given how little I speak in other languages. 
Lots of visitors

Unsung Muses was well received by most of them.  The language of appreciation is universal.  It was lovely when people made the effort to come up and say how much the installation had touched them.  We also made the local newspaper on the final day, which was fun.  The kids were very pleased to be mentioned and it was fab that Richard's huge support was also mentioned.  He drove the whole way there and was a mega help in hanging the work, as well as keeping me and the kids on the straight and narrow!
Unsung Muses by Gillian Cooper

A huge, unexpected bonus for me was that the local ladies of the church were running a tearoom in the kitchen of my venue, with fantastic home made cakes.  I had peach tart, plum tart and a Mille feuille over the course of my exhibition.  At the age of 40-something this week, I had a brace fitted to sort out a dental problem and am now not meant to eat sugary things for 18 months. I'm so glad it was after the EPM, not before!  
Yummy plum cake

Unsung Muses at the EPM

Lovely shadows

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Out & About: Château de Haut-Kœnigsbourg

The view through one of the windows onto the tower

Last week was a big week.  After the fun of getting my work to Ste-Marie-aux-Mines in France and getting it hung, we had a lull of one day before the show opened.  For my one day off, we went to visit the Château de Haut-Kœnigsbourg, down the valley from where we were staying.  It was a beautiful castle, with a fascinating history.  It sits on the edge of France, but over the years, it has been part of Germany and then part of France again.  The last time it was in Germany was leading up to World War I, and to emphasise its importance and to show the world how far the German Empire had expanded, the Kaiser ordered it to be restored at the start of the twentieth century.  
The entrance to Haut-Koenigsbourg

Visiting today, a big thing is made of the restoration - it is not hidden, making us believe the castle was always thus.  As part of the restoration process, many photos were taken - a real 'before and after' and copies of some of these were displayed, making for interesting viewing.  
One of the door locks at Haut-Koenigsbourg

I was fascinated by the windows, locks and staircases, as my photos show.  We all really enjoyed our visit, and would definitely recommend it if you are in the area - visiting the European Patchwork Meeting, for example.  In my next post, I'll tell you about how the Show went for me - our broadband is running super slow at the moment, so I'm still waiting for all of the 1303 photos that were taken to upload.  Don't worry, I don't intend sharing them all!
Another of the door locks at Haut-Koenigsbourg

Yet another of the door locks at Haut-Koenigsbourg

View through a window

A final door lock at Haut-Koenigsbourg
The view across the Vosges Mountains from the top of the castle

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Setting up the Muses at the European Patchwork Meeting


I made it!  After a 36 hour journey from Scotland to Ste Marie aux Mines in France on Saturday and Sunday, I spent yesterday hanging my show with my team of helpers. 

We had some fun communication issues trying to find the hanging rods (my French has improved greatly- I now know the words for screw and ladders!), but apart from that it all went really smoothly. 
I'm in the Presbytère in Ste Croix aux Mines and it has two rooms. One painted lilac, the other pink. This had been one of my concerns before coming here, but actually it hasn't affected the work too much. So if you are coming to the show, please pop in and say hello. I'm there the full time from Wednesday to Saturday and now the work is in place, I'm greatly looking forward to it. 

Today is a day off as we got all the hanging down yesterday, which is nice. We're intending to go castle hunting. 

I'll write more about the show later as this is being tapped out on my phone so it is a little hard. I intended posting this post last night, but there is no phone reception at our house. Still it is well worth it for the views!  

Monday, 7 September 2015

Getting ready for the EPM exhibition - a day in my life

My next exhibition opens at the European Patchwork Meeting next Wednesday, the 16 September 2015.  I’m sure that all the other exhibitors are calm and collected and have everything ready by now.  But I’m a bit of a deadline junkie and I don’t function like that.  Of course, I could just call time and decide that I have enough good work (which I do, but I always feel I could do more).  So this is a head down with serious work to do week, with totally unrealistic goals.  The children are going to be eating a lot of baked beans and other convenience food!  To give you an insight into my processes, I thought I would share with you what I have done today.  I’m sure there are better ways to do things, like trying to achieve less or doing things when I have time, rather than at the last moment, but to be fair, I haven’t really had much spare time over the past 12 months!  Anyway, this was today:

6am Woke up with R’s alarm and eventually crawled out of bed.  I’m not good first thing.  Finished laying out the pieces for my final large quilt for the Show and set up my lovely Pfaff sewing machine with the embroidery unit.  Started the sewing machine stitching out some patterns on some gelli-plate prints to make some little works of art – probably to be mounted on as greeting cards.
Small piece after the stitching, waiting to be neatened

7am Got the kids up, did some exercise, made packed lunches, ordered school dinners, got everyone (including me) ready for school.

8.30 Walked the youngest up to school and then walked back a slightly longer route so I got some fresh air today.

9.30 Did the minimum of housework I can get away with – ie emptied the dishwasher and hung out the washing. 

10.00 Answered some urgent emails and did some urgent admin.

10.30 Started the rounds of removing fabric from dye baths, washing and drying it.  This continued all day off and on as the washing machine cycles were completed.  No, this is not essential for my EPM work, but I taught dyeing to the C&G group at the weekend and there was lots of leftover dye and I couldn’t let it go to waste... 12m of fabric later and I’m still going!
One of my dye buckets

11.00 Ironed the patches onto Vilene and made up the backing for the final quilt.  Managed to drop the iron on the floor.  Luckily I missed me.  It is now a bit flappy and has gone to recycling.  Also luckily, it was an old one, which needed replaced.  I then stitched all the patches in place.
The patchwork prior to block printing

12.30 A little break for lunch, whilst leaving the embroidery unit running – overall I made 12 little pieces in the day.  I did actually stop for 15 mins as the weather was gorgeous and so I sat outside eating.  This is Scotland so I’ve got to make the most of it.

12.45 Started stamping the final quilt with Inktense to give it more interest and a better background.  This involved spraying the stamp, rubbing the Inktense on – I think I used 10 different shades, though not all at once, pressing the stamp onto the fabric three times and then repeating.  Lots of times.
Inktense and the stamp

2.30 Realise I have forgotten to rinse out the thickened dye from the fabric for the binding of my second last new quilt for the EPM.  Rush to get it done before I have to get the kids.  Somehow manage to lock the washing machine and I have to run it again before it will open the door – so I don’t manage to get it out on the line until I get back from the school run.
The block printed quilt top, drying
3.00 Remember I forgot to call sewing machine repair man as my Bernina is sounding a bit unwell.  He reassures me I’m unlikely to kill it by continuing to use it this week, and I make an appointment to take it in once I’m back from the EPM.

3.10 Leave a bit late to get the kids from school.  Once home, we have an ice lolly in the garden as it is so lovely, whilst I hear about the events of the day.

4.00 Start closely reading the French translation of my catalogue that my fabulous friend, Fredérique has written for me.  This takes a long time as I am being continually interrupted by the youngest who is trying to make chocolate whoopie pies from a Hummingbird cookbook – well she is only 8!
My catalogue... in English
6.00 Make a simple dinner and feed the youngest two.  Get the oldest one to golf practice.

7.00 Get in all the fabric that is on the line, leaving the clothes for R to deal with (sorry!).  Help with bedtime routines, then iron out the fabric for the binding, cut and stitch it in place on the front.  Try and write this blog post at the same time.
Some of my 12m of newly dyed fabric - still to be ironed

8.30 Flop in front of the TV with the oldest child for my favourite TV programme Only Connect – I love quizzes where I don’t know the answers!  Got some of the connecting wall this week, so I'm chuffed.  Eat my dinner.  Stitch the binding to the quilt and neaten up the ends on it and some of the small pieces I made today.

10.00 Think about going to bed ready to continue the madness tomorrow... only four days left until we have to get the ferry to France...

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Facing Time - a new work

Facing Time by Gillian Cooper

How much is enough?  I don't think there is any possible answer to this as an artist.  It is two weeks until the European Patchwork Meeting and I am still creating new pieces.  Originally I thought this didn't look very professional, but now I realise that it is part of being an artist - I can always make one more piece; I always have another fantastic new idea to try.  And I'm nowhere near finished with 'Unsung Muses' yet. So many possibilities and a deadline.  The perfect conditions for me to make work!
So here is another new finished piece.  I had a definite vision for this one from the start.  A few months ago, I was looking through an old sketchbook at some drawings and one jumped out at me.  
Original drawing (after I've played with it with some image manipulation software)

After redrawing it several times, I knew it was perfect for development, using similar techniques to those I had used in 'Elements of Our Past'. 

Full sized drawing on the wall
I pieced it together out of large patches of hand dyed fabric, working tonally from a full scale drawing. 

Some of the fabric I considered
I then used free machine stitching to add the detail and define the shapes and to hopefully give it a sort of sketchy feel.  I wanted the face to look human, but not too human and not to be over-defined, as it is coming from long ago.
In progress

Some of these fabrics were dyed seven years ago.  It is was good to use them and I really like the soft colour palette I achieved then.  I'm racking my brain to work out what dye shades I used so I can make some more of them, but as I didn't dye them at home it won't be straightforward. As I'm teaching dyeing to my C&G Certificate group this weekend, I may have a bash at it.
Detail of  'Facing Time' by Gillian Cooper

That's another of the new pieces.  I have four or five others at various stages of completion and another three or four in my brain.  Given I have eight days until we leave, and miracles are rare events, even in my most optimistic state, I don't think they will all be finished.  It's not like I actually need them - I already have sufficient work, but the joy of being an artist is I can always do more...
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