Congratulations to Charlotte Haenlein, C&G Medal for Excellence 2015

Charlotte Haenlein, C&G Patchwork and Quilting, Missenden Abbey

Charlotte Haenlein, C&G Patchwork and Quilting, Missenden Abbey

Congratulations to Charlotte Haenlein, who has won the C&G Medal for Excellence for Stitched Textiles 2015 after completing her course at Missenden Abbey. She kindly sent me these images of one of her assessed pieces and gave permission to show them here. This photo is a close-up showing details of the stitching, and the following photo shows the overall design. I’ve been trying to guess the inspiration and design sources behind this piece. It reminds me of Ikat and Double-Ikat weaving; a geometric pattern with a strong structure but with the edges softened by the graduations of colour. I’m intrigued by trying to work out how it’s done. Printed? Pieced and patched? I do know that the fabric is shot silk, and I can see that the quilting is done with a toning space-dyed thread. Congratulations Charlotte, and congratulations also to another Missenden Abbey student, Tina Brier, who has won the Medal for Excellence for Floristry.

Charlotte Haenlein, C&G Patchwork and Quilting, Missenden Abbey

Charlotte Haenlein, C&G Patchwork and Quilting, Missenden Abbey

Ceramic tile painting

Does anyone have experience of painting on ceramic tiles? We recently bought some second-hand fireplace tiles on eBay, a floral design which I thought was going to be highlighted in red. Unfortunately it’s difficult to show colour on a computer screen and in real life the bits I thought were red are actually brown. I like the yellow, and the background is a lovely deep bottle-green. But brown is probably my least-favourite colour. I’m wondering if it would work to use a ceramic paint to highlight the brown bits with a hint of red? They are fireplace tiles so I think the paint could be ‘fixed’ in the oven without cracking the tiles.

The reason I originally liked the tiles is that the ‘tube-lining’ that outlines the areas of colour reminds me of the white lines of a silk-painting, so I have an idea to make a silk painted picture to hang above the fireplace that echoes the flowers in the tiles. It’s a long time since I did silk-painting except to make mottled backgrounds for stitch. I did some last year when I made a silk painting of Jeremy Fisher sitting on his lily-leaf for my God-daughter. Unfortunately when I fixed the silk I must have got it too hot because the gutta outlining came out scorched. Although the scorch-marks could have been incorporated into the design I thought it would weaken the silk in the future, so I abandoned it and did the same design on cotton with fabric paints instead. It would be fun to get back into silk painting as it’s a lovely technique.

Projects like this have been on hold for a while. My mother-in-law was desperate to leave hospital, so we found her a place in a care home while bones mended. Sadly the care home wasn’t a great success and there was ‘much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (and that’s just the relatives!) There was a notice board in the entrance with the heading ‘Activities This Week’. The board was always empty. I was tempted to add ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’. My normally positive outlook only just withstood mother-in-law’s cheery reminders of ‘Not long til you’re old and in this state and who’ll look after you’? But I guess if you’re looking over The Edge then you can be forgiven for commenting to other people that it looks like a long way down. Anyway, at the weekend we effected ‘The Great Escape’ from the care home and took mother-in-law back home with a lovely live-in carer, so fingers crossed that things will look up for everyone. Perhaps we’ve left the twin towns of Much Weeping and Much Wailing behind and moved to Little Hoping. Maybe one day we can move on to Great Hoping?

Ah well, if you haven’t got youth, faith or children to protect you, then art provides some kind of hand-rail and fairy-lights along the edge of The Abyss. Art, and also the wonders of nature; moorland streams, secret mossy places, sunlit uplands, flowers, silence. And cuddles. And being connected to people. And old polished wood. And cats sleeping in the sun. And tiled fireplaces!  So if anyone has any experience of ceramic painting then I’d be grateful for your thoughts. Do you think it would work?

Article in ‘Be Inspired’ by Workbox

Be Inspired by Workbox Article

Be Inspired by Workbox Article

I am really pleased that I have just had an article published in the Workbox Annual Magazine, called ‘Be Inspired’. This is an ‘extra’ annual edition that is longer than the bi-monthly Workbox magazine (130 pages) which they release in time for stocking-fillers for textile addicts. I am delighted by the editing and the graphic design of the article. It’s very strange sending off an article as a text document and some Jpegs, because at that point you lose all editorial control over how it is presented. I opened the magazine quite nervously, wondering what they had done with it, and I was so pleased to see how they had used it. All in all they gave it 8 whole pages (!) including some whole-page photos of my work. I can only include some ‘fuzzy’ images here, because I own copyright of the photos but not the text, so if you would like to read it you’ll need to buy the magazine.

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 Article

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 Article

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 Article

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 Article

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 Article

Workbox Magazine Nov/Dec 2014

Workbox Magazine Nov/Dec 2014

I was asked to write something about ‘My Textile Journey’ after Workbox put a City and Guilds Press Release about me in the Nov/Dec edition of the magazine (forgot to mention that on the blog, but they gave it a whole page which was nice – see left). I wasn’t sure how interested Josephine Public would be in the details of how I learned to sew, so I thought it would be more interesting if I linked it to something more general about re-finding creativity later in life. Over the last year or so I have had so many people commenting, quite sadly I think, that they would love to be creative but they feel something is blocking them from this. Sometimes it’s time, and sometimes it is a lack of confidence in their own creativity. I am always struck by the way children don’t suffer from this – they just jump straight in and use their imagination and creativity in a spontaneous way. It seems so sad that something about modern life means that adults often lose their confidence in creative expression. I firmly believe that if we have it as children then it must still be there as adults, just buried so that it feels out of reach. My article tries to suggest some reasons why that happens, and what people can do to try to get back in touch with the creative freedom enjoyed by children.

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 cover

Be Inspired by Workbox Vol 3 cover

This is what the magazine looks like on the cover. It’s slightly difficult to find in newsagents, but I did see it on sale at a big branch of Smiths although some of the smaller branches don’t seem to have it. It can be ordered online http://www.workboxmag.com/shop/be-inspired-vol-3/

Changing the subject: I’ve been enjoying decorating the new house for Christmas. At times I’ve wondered why I was doing it since it’s been a period of really intense pressure on time for various reasons. However, I think I cling to Christmas rituals in defiance or denial of time pressure. Taking out the Christmas decorations each year is like greeting old friends after an absence. It reminds me of a different era as a child, when there really was time to enjoy it all properly. I don’t think I’m romanticising when I remember time to wander the Devon fields collecting dried grasses to spray gold, making hand-made decorations, and making danglies for the Christmas tree. There are times when this hits me as a sad time-warp (usually in a supermarket, when I hear tinned carols and ask myself where we all went wrong with modern life and why we are under such time pressure and things are so pre-packaged). But at some stage I always enjoy decorating the tree, at which point I am a small child again, gazing up at all the sparkles and pretties. Roger laughs when I keep going in and saying ‘pretty, pretty’ and says that middle-aged Jane has been replaced by three-year-old Jane.

Anyway, many thanks to those of you who reply to posts or who email me separately with comments. It’s great to hear from you. Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year one and all.

To-do lists, cardboard boxes and discomobulation

People say that moving house is one of the top five stressful life-events, and I think they’re right. Unfortunately, quite soon after the move my 90 year old mother-in-law fell at home and broke two bones. One way and another I’m rather discombobulated so I hope you can forgive the long gap between posts. As an apology, here’s a totally irrelevant photo of something that amused me when I was in Oxford. How bizarre it is that the same world can contain war, poverty, oppression, natural disasters – and a knitted lamp-post cosy in Oxford.

Moving house provides so many opportunities for a control-freak to write endless lists. Things to pack, what to pack with what, what to leave out, what goes where at the other end, who to notify of change of address, even lists of lists. It helps me to feel that life isn’t spinning out of control. It goes something like this:

List                                                                                                                                                             Write List A                                                                                                                                               Write List B                                                                                                                                                 Write List C                                                                                                                                                   Write List of lists…hang on a minute that’s what this one is…if I keep going round this loop then everything is under control…

The balance of order and chaos starts to tip in the wrong direction

Evidence: the disappearing list was there

Evidence: the disappearing list was there

My lists keep the world in orbit and remind the sun to come up in the morning. My in-tray normally has 3 tiers, which are ‘Urgent’, ‘Soon’, and ‘Manyana’. Unfortunately now they’re all muddled up in a heap labelled ‘Oh my God what’s in there?’ Worse, the to-do list went missing. Woe is me! The dark side threatens to engulf the world! How can the forces of chaos be held back without my list? Look, there it was on the desk. And then suddenly there it wasn’t.

There has been an ongoing debate for years as to what all the ‘stuff’ that filled our cupboards actually consists of, and I categorically denied that most of it was mine. However, packing and labelling all our combined worldly goods has officially confirmed that I am a hoarder. I’m not sure what the relative proportions of boxes says about me, except that when I say I’ve got nothing to wear I’m probably making an accurate statement of fact.

Clothes: One wardrobe rail, one box, two suitcases, one box of shoes.                                            Walking, water-sports, travel, camping: 9 boxes                                                                                      Books: 21 boxes                                                                                                                                          Art equipment and textile ‘stuff’: 20 boxes                                                                                        Noo-Noos:  Undisclosed number (classified information).

Ah yes, I’ll tell you about Noo-noos. My brother and his family have a collective name for all those things that have no particular purpose in life except to be put on a shelf and gather dust. They call them Nicky-Nacky-Noo-Noos, or Noo-Noos for short. It came as quite a surprise to see how many boxes of Noo-Noos there were. For example I have a great weakness for ceramics – I love the feel of handling hand-made studio pottery, particularly stone-ware. Then there are all those pretty things, dangly things, brightly coloured things, childhood treasures and things that I’ll keep for ever because I love the person who gave them to me (like the little hand-made pottery fox that my God-mother made for my birthday when I was very small). And since childhood I’ve loved collections of things – coloured glass, little boxes, my mother’s antique porcelain, shells, antique ivory sewing things, old glass lace bobbins, and things that are just – tiny. All the stuff that my husband looks at and asks in a bewildered tone of voice:  ‘What’s it for?’ In a parallel life I am a higher spiritual being who rises above attachment to material things. But in real life I have a hearty disrespect for people who tell you to de-clutter your life, and I love my ‘stuff’. I definitely don’t do ‘minimalism! Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about? Perhaps you’re the kind of person who has wonderful half-empty cupboards with spare space? In which case I admire you but it puzzles me!

My father had a wonderful way of categorising things in his workshop at work. Four drawers in a filing cabinet were labelled in turn: ‘Bits, Bobs, Odds, Sods’. Noo-Noos are decorative, whereas Bits, Bobs, Odds and Sods are more functional. My paperwork on the other hand is filed in boxes labelled ‘Useful Things’, ‘Boring Things’, ‘Nice Things’ and ‘Nasty Things’. The great thing about this system is that I don’t accidentally stumble across a nasty thing like a will while I’m looking for a nice thing like an exhibition brochure. Things can be re-categorised – for example an insurance claim is ‘Nasty’ while it still has a sting to it, but becomes just ‘Boring’ once it is dealt with and forgotten. Roger sometimes says he thinks he’ll find himself neatly folded and filed, and asks whether he’d be classified as ‘Useful’ or ‘Nice’. I reassure him that it definitely wouldn’t be ‘Boring’ or ‘Nasty’! Some of the more urgent ‘Boring’ and ‘Useful’ things are beginning to get organised in the new house, but sadly most of the Noo-noos and books are still packed. I hear them tapping on the boxes with little cries of ‘let us out’ but I have to ignore them for now.

If you were wondering why there’s no art to show you in this post, then this photo may help explain it. I’m looking forward to a time when I can start decorating, get the Noo-noos and books out of boxes, start designing the garden, dig some flower-beds, and get into the boxes of art stuff. Last weekend I had a lovely day with textile friends and we are starting to think about a joint exhibition, probably now in Spring 2016. Some time between now and then I look forward to being reunited with my art and textile stuff and getting back into the creative process. As a child I was fully trained in the art of bread-and-butter-before-cake. The cake is in front of me on the plate now, so I’m looking forward to being allowed to eat it.

Good bye sea-views

Good bye sea-views

 

Hello garden

Hello garden

Knitting and Stitching Show, Part the Second: Gelliping with Hilary Beattie

I enjoyed a wonderful day of ‘gelliping’ with Hilary Beattie at the Knit and Stitch show. Unusually for the Knit and Stitch show it was a whole-day workshop rather than a ‘taster’ session, which meant there was time to play and experiment. I was inspired to go on a workshop with Hilary when I read about her teaching on Sam Packer’s blog catch a crumpsey. It is lovely to go on a course with a tutor who is so passionate about teaching, and I found the day very inspiring.

I’ve been wondering what the latest craze with gelli plate printing is all about. How is it different from ‘normal’ mono-printing using age-old surfaces like plastic or glass? Well now I know the answer – you can do all the same things that you do on a glass plate, but there are some extras. The biggest difference, I think, is that unlike printing from something firm, gelli plates will take an ‘impression’ of an item you use as a resist. After inking up the gelli plate and placing a ‘resist’ on it (like a leaf for example) the first print you take from it forms a negative print where the leaf appears as a ‘void’. So far that’s the same as a glass plate. But the difference is in the second print you take from it. The leaf gets pressed into the gelli; when you remove the leaf and take a second print from what’s left, you end up with the positive print of the leaf, with the tiny details like veins all showing. That’s a rather muddled explanation, so I recommend Hilary’s new book that has just come out, which makes it all clear through examples.DSCN4978

Or you can use the gelli plate just like a normal mono-print surface, like these that I did by printing several layers of colour and pattern. With these ones I was trying to create an impression of depth by over-printing with light and dark, or matt and shiny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few prints put out to dry (below) that were done by the rest of the class. I would really recommend a course with Hilary – she’s like a human whirlwind, good fun, very spontaneous and not at all precious about art. What a great day. And no, I really didn’t have time for a course as I should really have been packing for the move, but it was good to escape from the sea of boxes for a while. Wonderful displacement activity.

 

 

 

 

Knitting and Stitching Show, Part the First

Renate Keeping

Renate Keeping

Renate Keeping

A Flood Warning for the tidal areas of Shoreham Harbour on Thursday (normal high spring tide plus an extra storm-surge) meant that I spent the morning putting in my mother-in-law’s flood defences, and only got to Ally Pally in the afternoon. I was really pleased that a lovely stranger came and helped me. She was walking her dog along the river and saw me staggering around with giant planks and heaps of sand-bags and came and helped for half an hour. How nice is that? So although my first day at the show was cut in half, in fact I went up in very good spirits, musing on how nice people can be. The other thing that helped me enjoy my whistle-stop rush round the show was that this year for the first time I treated myself to a 20-minute head, neck and shoulder-massage at the show. I’ve seen the people in green T shirts offering massages at previous shows and felt slightly shy about saying ‘yes’. But it got rid of tired muscles from sand-bag operations, and in fact it was so pleasant that I’ll make a point of doing it next year too. I started by feeling slightly self-conscious being massaged in such a public place, but after a few minutes I was relaxed, and soon after that I was away with the fairies. The main thing I missed out was the big trader’s hall, which was probably a good thing for my bank-balance.

Renate Keeping

Luckily I did manage to get round the main exhibitions that I wanted to see. Here are a few of my favourite things. I loved these apples by Renate Keeping, which are reflections on ripening, ageing and time. They are displayed in ‘crates’ and look like they have been lovingly gathered and stored at the end of the season. You could almost smell them, or reach out and take a bite. Closer inspection revealed marks and blemishes, and little holes where a creature had eaten its way in.

 

Renate Keeping

I was very taken with Jo Beattie’s work ‘Precious Memories’ (below) which was based on photographs of people she loves, capturing ‘moments in time’. Images are stitched onto organza and then cut-away into silhouettes, like this one of children in a play-ground. They are mounted away from their background and displayed with a strong light, so the shadows become as much part of the work as the stitching. Judging by conversations I overheard, this was a very popular piece.

Jo Beattie

Jo Beattie

Margaret Talbot’s piece below was inspired by the centenary of the start of the First World War. The description reads: ‘Margaret’s work was inspired by the scars of war on the landscape, the devastation of crops and the pollution of the land between the lines. Perfect fields disintegrate into ‘no-man’s-land’ and then into absolute destruction.’ Techniques include pulled work on silk scrim. I found it strangely moving.

Margaret Talbot

DSCN4823I finally got to say hello to Kim Thittichai on the stand where she was demonstrating, but only as the show was closing and the crowds finally melted away. Kim is buried in there somewhere, chatting and demonstrating away!

‘Part the Second’ will follow later. That was a day workshop with Hilary Beattie the following day, which needs some photos sorting before I add it.

A Round Tuit.

I used to share an office with a colleague who had a round ceramic plaque on the wall by her desk, with the inscription ‘You always said you would get A Round Tuit, so I thought I’d give you one’. OK so it was abit cutesy – but I could identify with the sentiment! I definitely need to get a Round Tuit at the moment. People who have stitched alongside me know that I’m the world’s greatest prevaricator, and I spend for ever getting a round tuit. Right now I think there’s a good reason though, as I’m beginning to pack for a house-move. We’ve had an unbelievable gap of 5 months between exchanging contracts and completing, so we drifted into the mindset that we had endless time available to sort everything out. Now suddenly it’s looming in 5 weeks time and there’s so much to do. I haven’t moved for 19 years and Roger hasn’t moved for 26 years, so it’s a big deal and we’re quite unsettled. Art is virtually at a standstill, so I thought it would be a good chance to tackle some small UFO’s.

Earlier this year I went with some friends on a wonderful course with Gwen Hedley, called ‘Cut, fold, form, patch, piece’. We made a series of little pieces based on manipulating fabric and paper, enclosing and trapping things within folds and flaps. I came home with a head full of ideas and a box full of projects to finish, and of course that’s where they have stayed since then. But they are an ideal thing to keep out during the next few months of chaos, because they are small, portable, easily put-down-able, and can be done in the hand without access to messy space. They don’t need any great concentration on design – they just evolve in your hands as you stitch. That’s great at a time when I’m distracted by trying to get our current home ready for new people, firstly de-cluttering and secondly decorating.

Fellow textile addicts will understand the way that ‘stuff’ just expands, filling cupboards to bulging and over-flowing. When the cupboards are full, then the boxes start to pile up in front of the cupboards. Why is it that whatever you need is guaranteed to be in the most deeply buried and inaccessible place? And horror of horrors, when you start hoiking it out of cupboards and trying to rugby-tackle it into boxes, then it expands in an exponential explosion.

We’ll be saying goodbye to our sea-views, but we’ll gain a garden (and an ‘extra’ room…now I wonder what that could be used for??? Any ideas???) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are some more of these little experiments in the pipeline, and they’ll each have more stitching added before being mounted onto something less harsh than the paper they’re currently on. After that they’ll probably turn into a sort of little 3D sketch-book-thingy.

Roger just looked over my shoulder and asked why I was posting photos of strange stuff tied up with string…

…Is there anyone out there…?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop On The Web Article

Jane Robinson 3D Goldwork Fossil Rock

Jane Robinson 3D Goldwork Fossil Rock

I’m pleased to say that I’ve just had an article published in the on-line magazine ‘Workshop on the Web’ (Edited by Maggie Grey). I am a subscriber to Workshop on the Web and have enjoyed many a good article and workshop, so I was delighted to be invited to contribute. I was asked to write about one of my finished pieces in the Diploma in Stitched Textiles (Embroidery) course exhibition, which Sam Packer for WoW had seen last year. I had put this piece into the Festival of Quilts (Quilt Creations Category) this summer, so it seemed a good idea to choose this one. The article is split into two parts – the first covers piecing and patching the fabrics and dyeing them, and the second covers adding the gold-work fossils and manipulating it into a 3D piece.

Gold-work Trilobite

Gold-work Trilobite

 

What I couldn’t show in the article is that the rock is designed to ‘levitate’ and float in the air. To see it floating, click here.

If you’re not already a subscriber to Workshop on the Web (or WoW as people call it) then I do recommend it – not only because I’m in it!

The History of English Embroidery

A visit to Parham House in Sussex has just reminded me of the wonderful embroideries on display there. They have an impressive collection of stumpwork pictures, as well as tapestries and furnishings. Parham House has a generous attitude to photography, allowing photos provided no flash is used. What a boon for anyone who enjoys the History of English Embroidery – it means you can look at the images in more detail than you can get in a postcard. As well as embroideries, there are some fantastic examples shown in portraits. I love the way the artist has captured the texture of the velvet, shown in the top photo, and the way the pile captures the light. It is quite amazing that although so few actual examples of Elizabethan embroideries still exist, we have such a good idea of what they looked like through portraits. This is such a good example, showing gold-work and silk shaded fantasy flowers in the swirling designs that the Elizabethans loved so much.

Portrait said to be of Elizabeth I.

The one above is said to be of Elizabeth I, although art historians question this as the shape of her face is different from other portraits of her. Anyway, whoever she is, just look at the detail in the starched Reticella lace collar, and the mad little silk-worms embroidered on her dress.

 

 

This poor soul looks like she could be quite spirited, if she could only move her head!

A question for you

Now, I have a question. As part of the City and Guilds Diploma in Stitched Textiles (Embroidery), everyone does a big project on The History of English Embroidery. I loved doing mine; I got completely engrossed in it, and it ran to 100 A3 pages. I would rather not know how long it actually took! Now after all that work it is shut away in a cupboard, which seems abit of a waste. When I was doing it I came across some fantastic books written by specialists in their field which tended to be on very specific areas, such as a particular technique or an era. I found relatively few that had a complete overview (except for the wonderful book by Lanto Synge that includes the whole of Western Europe). What I was also looking for was something that was relatively short and simple, and contained more of a summary that would give an ‘overview’ before delving into the more rarefied professional tomes. Then when we had our C&G end of course show I noticed that other C&G students wanted to photograph pages from our finished projects, as a starting point for their own project. So I wonder if there’s any interest in me putting it all on the website so that anyone who is interested can see it? It’s no substitute for studying the specialist books by the professional textile historians (or preferably seeing the originals) but it may be useful as a starting-point.

I’d need to scan it page by page, so I thought I’d see first if there’s any interest. What do you think?

 

 

The Festival of Quilts 2014

Sandra Smith, The Cloths of Heaven, Miniature Quilts (detail) I loved the subtle colours and the simplicity of this.

What a feast for the eyes at the Festival of Quilts. The feet have just about recovered from a bad choice of footwear for a day of standing and shuffling about, and the photos are finally uploaded. This was the first time I’ve been to the festival, and I really under-estimated how much there would be to see. It took a whole day just to look at the competition quilts – there were about a thousand just of those. I ran out of time for the curated exhibitions and there was no time at all for the traders stalls so the bank balance didn’t suffer, unlike Ally Pally. Definitely two days next year.

Inneke Van Unen, Emotion in Art, Route du vin blanc. This was one of the few non-competition galleries I did get to see. I bought her catalogue for the exhibition which was worth every penny for the lovely colours. I also enjoyed chatting to her.

I found my first visit to the FOQ really friendly. As well as meeting up with friends and familiar acquaintances, I had some really nice conversations with various unknown people. For example I had an hour to wait between my friend’s train time and my own, and as I was sitting in the bar a lovely stranger came up and asked if I’d like a conversation as she was on her own too. How un-British, and how nice! I didn’t write down a name so it has slipped from my memory. If that’s you, then do reply here and say hello!

My 3D ‘Fossil Rock’ was entered in the Quilt Creations category. I was disappointed with how it was displayed – it’s a tiny little thing that was displayed at knee-height. When people are used to looking upwards at huge quilts, and if they have tired feet, creaky knees or shopping bags on their shoulder, are they really going to bother to get down to knee-height to look at something so small? It’s the first time I’ve entered anything into a competition so I wasn’t specific about wanting it shown at eye-level – I thought it would have been self-evident. Oh well, you live and learn. Here’s someone who did bother to crouch down – thank you, unknown lady!

Most of my favourites came from the categories of Art Quilts, Contemporary Quilts and the Fine Art Quiltmasters (I don’t understand the distinctions between these – can anyone enlighten me?) The rest of this post shows some of my favourites (I’ve saved the best for last) but first there were some traditional ones that I liked too. My favourite traditional quilts didn’t win, but they easily could have been winners in my humble opinion.

Annelise Littlefair, Kutch Diamonds, Traditional Quilts

Annelise Littlefair, Kutch Diamonds, Traditional Quilts

I love the quilt above by Annelise Littlefair. The closer you get to it, the more exquisite detail emerges (see below). The machine-quilting is done very delicately. Apparently this was a winning quilt in a previous quilt competition (Sandown?) and I can see why. It would have been my choice of winner of the traditional category this time too.

Annelise Littlefair, detail 1

Annelise Littlefair, detail 2

Annelise Littlefair, detail 2

I loved this traditional one below, with beautifully stitched applique. It could have come straight out of Averil Colby. I can picture a group of people sitting round the quilt frame stitching it, in a quilting bee in ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Shame the photo makes it look pink – it was a lovely crisp white.

Sue Horner, My Baltimore Quilt, (Traditional Quilts)

Sue Horner, My Baltimore Quilt, (Traditional Quilts)

Simon Henry, 1850, Traditional Quilts

Simon Henry, 1850, Traditional Quilts

Here are two more I liked in the traditional category. On the left, a lovely applique by Simon Henry.

Below: a piece by Laura Armiraglio. I did wonder if it might have been more ‘in place’ in the Pictorial category, but as I mentioned before I don’t understand the categories so what do I know??? It’s lovely anyway.

Laura Armiraglio, Omaggion a Gerda Bengtsson

Laura Armiraglio, Omaggion a Gerda Bengtsson

 

 

Penny Armitage, Cosmos, Miniature Quilts

Penny Armitage, Cosmos, Miniature Quilts

And here are some that struck me from the other categories.

Here’s another ‘pretty’ one by Penny Armitage in the Miniature Quilts category, which I think is a machine cut-away technique (beautifully done).

I liked the colours and the freshness of Yvonne Brown’s Tulip Time (below). I particularly liked the way the cut-away sections echoed the other bands of tulips.

Yvonne Brown, Tulip Time, Quilters Guild Challenge Winner

Cherry Vernon-Harcourt, Holkham Beach

Cherry Vernon-Harcourt, Holkham Beach (detail)

 

Definitely a case of ‘less is more’ here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two-Plus-One, Shared Abstraction, Group Quilts.

Two-Plus-One, Shared Abstraction, Group Quilts.

 

I like the contrasting colour-scheme of this quilt by ‘Two-Plus-One’, and the simple restrained stitching.  I also liked the mat texture, which included paper as well as fabric.

Two-Plus-One, detail

Two-Plus-One, detail

Two-Plus-One, detail 2

Two-Plus-One, detail 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read a complaint in someone else’s blog that ‘the arty set’ are taking over the Festival of Quilts. No doubt some of my choices would have her full disapproval, but hopefully there’s room in the quilt and textile art world for the whole spectum, from ‘arty’ through to ‘cutesy’, and all shades in between.

Yvonne Kervinen, Urban Landscape, Art Quilts

Yvonne Kervinen, Urban Landscape, Art Quilts

Louise Peers, Bushfire, Art Quilts (Highly Commended)

I loved the subtle colour-gradations of ‘Bushfire’ above. I’m not sure if the background was painted or shibori-dyed, but it was lovely, with more trees appliqued on top. I love the tiny little green shoot on the right – the piece could have been called ‘hope’.

Louise Peers (detail)

I had to put my hands in my pockets to avoid stroking the quilt below.

Cecilia Gonzalez Desedamas, The Difference, Art Quilts (detail)

Maggie Birchenough, Rose 4, Art Quilts (Judges Choice)

Maggie Birchenough, Rose 4, Art Quilts (Judges Choice)

Maggie Birchenough (detail)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the very restricted colour-palette of this one by Maggie Birchenough, and the textured detail in the stitching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Wrapped In Colour’ by Meredith McCarthy (below) is a very different kind of quilt, which glowed as the light shone through it. It reminded me of old stained glass windows.

Meredith McCarthy, Wrapped in Colour, Art Quilts

Kate Crossley, Clock, Quilt Creations

And here’s my favourite, Kate Crossley’s ‘Clock’ which had the unanimous vote of all the judges to win the Quilt Creations category. Of all the things I saw at the show, this is the one that I would be most pleased to have created myself. It’s a wonderful concept as a way to make a textile statement on ‘time’. It’s completely bonkers, stuffed with detail, and beautifully stitched. The closer you look, the more it draws you in to study the detail (see below).

Judging by the people crowding round to photograph it, this was a popular choice by the Judges. Look at the photo at the bottom – it shows how captivated people are by this piece.

Kate Crossley, Clock, detail 1

Kate Crossley, Clock, detail 3

Kate Crossley, Clock, detail 2

Kate Crossley, Clock, detail 4

Kate Crossley, Clock, detail 5

A constant crowd of people to photograph Kate Crossley’s Clock

It’s Shaun the sheep

That's not a stake through his heart, it's the remains of a sparkler

That’s not a stake through his heart, it’s the remains of a sparkler

Here’s a quick post to show you the photos I’ve just received of the Shaun the sheep cake I made for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. The whole family are Shaun fans, influenced by Audrey aged 90 and her sister Ann. This includes the middle-aged generation, the young adults, the teenagers and the school-age and pre-school children.

Shaun is made from sugar-paste icing made with glycerine (wonderful stuff that you can mould like plasticine). The grass is coloured butter-icing and the flowers are courtesy of the local supermarket. Shaun kept letting his head droop onto the grass, so he has a cocktail stick in his neck to help him stay awake. I had two helpers to make the grass and arrange the flowers – Veronika and Milo. And yes, there were a few spare sugar flowers that had to be sampled first.

My mother-in-law is called ‘Granny Cake’ for good reason!

Waiting patiently for cake while adults keep talking

Waiting patiently for cake while adults keep talking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only problem was that the adults couldn’t bring themselves to eat Shaun. The children were less squeamish. But after some discussion of the method of dissection (pull his head off? chop him into slices?) in fact he was removed to a plate while his field was eaten instead. (Update: I’m told that Shaun now lives in a box and may make a guest appearance on another cake).

Pay Up!

Pay Up

There has been alot of interest in my previous post, ‘Reclaiming Childhood’ which was about the exploitation of children in the embroidery industry in India. The exhibition of paintings by Claire Phillips will move to Worthing Museum and Art Gallery from 13th September until 24th Jan 2015. Do go and see it if you can.

Do you remember the sewing factory that collapsed in Bangladesh, The Rana Plaza? It was in the news in April 2013, when all 9-storeys collapsed, killing 1138 workers and injuring 2600. Workers in the shops and bank on the ground floor were all evacuated the day before, when big cracks appeared in the building, but garment workers on the other floors were ordered back to work the next day despite the known risk. There was shock and outrage in the Western world for a while. Then other things took over in the news, and our daily lives took over, and how often have we consciously thought about it again? There was a flurry of publicity a little while later about setting up a compensation fund for the families and survivors, and the willingness or otherwise of the big clothing companies to pay up. We are lucky to live in a country that has stricter health and safety legislation and enforcement, and prosecution of companies that breach these regulations. If something does go wrong, there is compensation, and there are state benefits and free health-care. Nothing can compensate for the loss of a loved-one, but it is in the power of the big clothing companies who used the factory to make sure that the injured and bereaved are not destitute.

Well over a year later, the compensation fund is still a long way short of the amount that should have been raised. Some companies paid up straight away, and some gave in gradually and reluctantly to public pressure. Others have yet to pay up, or have just made a small contribution that falls a long way short of what is needed. Click here to see more information about who has and hasn’t paid up, from the website of Cleanclothes.org, who campaign for fair wages and safe working conditions in the clothing and embroidery industries. http://www.cleanclothes.org/ranaplaza

Some companies have made the amount of their donations public. Some companies that had no clear link to the factory also made voluntary donations. However, others failed to pay up. One of the companies that dragged its’ heels is Matalan, who until this week were the only UK company not to have paid a penny. After considerable public pressure they finally made a donation this week, only the day before the deadline for payment and well over a year after the disaster. This is only a ‘token’ payment, to the short-term disaster-relief, not the full amount that is needed for long-term compensation. Their argument is that they stopped using the factory a few weeks before the accident. But this was for quality reasons, not humanitarian or health and safety reasons. Most garment manufacture in Bangladesh and India is done on this short-term basis, which makes health and safety harder to enforce. Another argument is that they were not found culpable (but nor where any of the other companies who used the Rana Plaza, but they have paid up anyway). Their third argument is that there is no court order forcing them to pay (but the other companies who have paid up willingly have done so without a court order). They refuse to disclose the actual amount they are offering to the fund, and without Matalan’s permission to disclose it the fund also cannot state how much they have offered. If they are as proud as they claim to be about their (reluctant, late) contribution, then why not disclose the amount? Their argument is that they ‘only’ used the Rana Plaza for a short time, although they acknowledge that this was very shortly before the disaster, and that they stopped using it for commercial reasons not for humanitarian or health and safety reasons. If every company took the same line as Matalan then there would be no compensation fund at all.

 

 

Reclaiming Childhood

Claire Phillips: Geeta

Last week I went to the opening night of an exhibition of paintings by Claire Phillips, a Sussex portrait artist, at the Oxo Tower in London. The title of the exhibition is ‘Reclaiming Childhood: Face To Face With Child Labour In India’. For several years Claire has worked with the charity ‘Bachpan Bachao Andolan’, which is a charity that rescues children from slave-labour in India. Some of the children come from factories and from domestic service. Many come from embroidery sweat-shops, where they have been stitching for hours and hours each day. They have no education, no health-care, no freedom, no time to play, and no kindness. If they fall asleep while working they are beaten. If they cry, they are beaten. They can’t see any way out or any future. Children are particularly desirable to embroidery sweatshops; they have good eyesight, nimble fingers, and can do detailed work that is more challenging for adults. One particular irony in India is that the numbers of children who are estimated to be in bonded labour instead of education is roughly equivalent to the number of adults who are out of work. This is the cost of the cheap embroidery that we buy in the West.

Painting by Claire Phillips: Mukti-Ashram Boys

Painting by Claire Phillips: Mukti-Ashram Boys

As embroiderers we know just how long it takes to hand-stitch sequins, or to do exquisite metal-thread work, or to stitch on tiny beads. How often do we buy a piece of embroidered clothing, or a bag or scarf, which has been hand-stitched in India? When we do, how often do we stop to ask ourselves why it is so incredibly cheap? Why not apply a quick bit of logic. Start with the price we pay, and subtract the cost of the shop that we bought it from (staff, premises, business rates etc). Subtract the cost of handling and shipping it across the sea from India. Subtract the cost of the wholesaler in India. Subtract the cost of transporting it within India. On top of the costs at each stage, add a profit margin. Once you have taken off all that, what is left? Peanuts. In that case, how can the person at the very end of the chain, the person who stitched it, possibly have been paid a decent living wage? And how likely is it that this person was a child?

The lucky ones are rescued by the charity. Some are returned to parents, and others stay in children’s homes run by the charity. Here they receive care and kindness, proper food, education and time to play. They learn to trust people; they learn hope, and they learn that they can have a future.

Painting by Claire Phillips:  Deepika

Painting by Claire Phillips: Deepika

The sound-track and the written commentary to the exhibition tell us about the conditions that some of the children were rescued from, and the painful stories that led to their exploitation. However, the exhibition is lighter in spirit than I expected. The paintings show the children just as children, as Claire met them; playing, playful, exploring, mischievous, and fun. These are children who have a second-chance at childhood. It takes them time to learn to trust the adults around them – but once they do, their sense of fun is tremendous.

Child working on zari-work

Child working on zari-work

The art on one wall is a poignant reminder of what these children have lost and regained. There are two sets of pictures done by the children; the first set is soon after they are rescued, when their drawings tend to be timid and unconfident. Some, like the ones below, show details of the embroidery work they had to do for hours – in this case Zari (goldwork).

Children's art soon after rescue

Children’s art soon after rescue

Children's art soon after rescue

Children’s art soon after rescue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children's art

Children’s art

 

 

Other pictures are done by children who have been at the centre for longer and who have started to experience the world as free children should be able to experience it. These pictures fill the page with expressive, joyful images of the world around them; houses, the sun, a cow, or flowers. They have recovered a sense of childhood that most western children can take for granted.

Children's art

Children’s art

Children's art

Children’s art

Children's art

Children’s art

Kailash Satyarthi

The exhibition is on at The Oxo Tower until the 20th July, and will be at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery from 13th September 2014 until the 24th January 2015. Do go and see it if you can.

For more information on the charity, go to http://www.bba.org.in/

For more on Claire’s art, go to http://www.clairephillips.com/

There is also a talk by Kailash-Satyarthi at the Oxo Tower on the closing day of the London exhibition (20th July). Kailash is rated as one of the top human rights defenders of the world today. He and his colleagues literally risk their lives in the process of freeing enslaved children, and they have rescued around 80,000 children. In the painting by Claire (bottom left) he is pictured with some of the children rescued by Bachan Bachao Andolan. They are having a school lesson, something taken for granted by western children.

http://www.oxotower.co.uk/events/talk-human-rights-defender-kailash-satyarthi/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Claire Phillips for permission to include images of her work on this blog.

What wondrous things…

 

Recently I wandered through an amazing wild-flower meadow in Sussex, a vast and glorious array of colour and celebration. I find it hard to grasp why flowers are quite so beautiful. The naturalists’ answer is that it’s so that the bees choose them to land on rather than their neighbours. Crinkled purple vetch competing with the splash of red poppies, competing with homely, wisely-winking daisies. ‘Land on me’. ‘No, land on me’. ‘Oh, please, land on ME’. But wouldn’t the bees still find them if they were all just shades of dull brown? Is it really necessary, for survival, for them to be quite so glorious? I love the sheer unnecessary beauty of them, which seems to exist for no other reason than that it does.

Machine-embroidered panel

Here’s a piece I made a long time ago now, based on grasses blowing in the wind. It’s from later in the summer, when the wild-flowers have faded and the grasses are turning gold. It’s machine-embroidered, with layers of bonded ‘snippets’ as a background, and dyed orange and green velvet cut-away as a top layer to make the grasses. The thumbnails below are the pencil and pen-and-ink drawings that started this piece off.

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers can be held up as shields against sad, bad things. They help us to celebrate, to grieve and to rejoice. The recent winner of the City and Guilds Medal for Excellence and Lion Award for Floristry, Jill Harden, said to me ‘I can’t imagine a life without flowers’. I guess that’s why artists paint them, poets write about them, and we textile artists stitch them.

Lara Sparks

Lara Sparks

I came across the work of Lara Sparks recently at a Sussex Guild of Craftsmen show. She kindly let me photograph her work and put a few pieces here. Some of her work features images of wildflowers and grasses, delicately stitched on a backgound of linen. She was also featured in a 6-page article in Embroidery Magazine. Her website is at http://www.larasparks-embroidery.co.uk/

Lara Sparks

Lara Sparks

We were introduced to this wild-flower meadow by our friend V and her husband. I was thinking of V as I wandered through it recently, without her company this year as she was away saying her final farewells to her mother. V is a real celebrant of the wonders of nature, discovering it each day as it if is all new again since yesterday. Which, of course, it is.

W Keble-Martin’s ‘The Concise British Flora in Colour’ stood in the same place on the family bookshelf in Dartmoor for fifty years, consulted earnestly as a family Bible.  Keble-Martin is probably quite bewildered now to find himself on my bookshelf by a shingle beach in Sussex. Open it randomly now and old flowers drop out, dusty and brittle from fifty years pressed between the pages. There is still a hint of their true colours when they grew in the fields, river-banks, meadows and moorlands of Devon, picked and studied when the sun shone every day and everything was ever, and pressed between the pages as talismans. The pages have pencilled notes of where and when each flower was found; the one and only exception to the crime of writing in a book. ‘Lady’s Pennywort, Aish Lane, 1968’. ‘Heath Pearlwort, Skerraton Down, July 1970’. ‘Sea Purslove, Aveton Gifford, April 1972’. Many are from ‘The Meadow’ behind the house. For there is, actually, only one meadow in this universe; the one from which the house, Meadow Cottage, takes its’ name. Fistfuls of wild-flowers were brought home home as presents, drooping from being clutched in small, hot hands. And if a particular treasure was found by a child, then our name was entered carefully in the book along with the flower, place and date. My mother’s hand-writing is on the page, as if she will come back one day with a new flower to identity. I can’t remember why I was so obstinate about learning their names, but how glad I am that they slipped into my mind anyway, and can be recited as a litany as I walk. Moon-daisy, cow-slip, vetch. Rose-bay Willow-herb, Bindweed, Sedge. Red Campion, fox-glove, Ling.  And valiant Cow-parsley, towering over all the others to declare that it is here anyway, whether we are here to see it or not.

This Heritage

They are not dead, who leave us this great heritage of remembered joy. They still live in our hearts, in the happiness we knew, in the dreams we shared. They still breathe, in the lingering fragrance windblown from their favourite flowers. They still smile in the moonlight’s silver and laugh in the sunlight’s sparkling gold. They still speak in the echoes of words we’ve heard them say again and again. They still move, in the rhythm of waving grasses, in the dance of the leafy branches. They are not dead; their memory is warm in our hearts, comfort in our sorrow. They are not apart from us, but a part of us, for love is eternal and those we love shall be with us throughout all eternity.

(Author Unknown)

 

 

 

Missenden Abbey Diploma shows

Bobby Francis

The Missenden Abbey Open Day last weekend was a wonderful display of work across a range of different subjects. There were tutor displays that included floral art, beadwork, botanical painting, watercolour, ceramics, mosaics, batik and goldwork. I had an interesting conversation with a graphologist, who ‘read’ my handwriting with great accuracy. She seemed quite intrigued by the fact that I can write fluently in joined-up mirror-writing (not the most useful skill in the world, but apparently quite interesting for a graphologist. I gather I share this strange phenomenon with Leonardo Da Vinci and Lewis Carrol!). I remember quite clearly one day, as a child, I just decided that I would be able to do mirror-writing, and sat down and did it. It didn’t take any practice. There was a strange way of shutting off the part of the brain that said I couldn’t do it, and almost hypnotising myself into knowing that I could do it. It seems to be important that I have both feet planted on the ground, and that I am relaxed. There’s a process of kind of ‘sinking down inside myself’ almost like a meditation, and then it just happens. I have no idea why, or what it means. The only thing I do know is that it feels just the same as being absorbed in observational drawing.

We were impressed with the City and Guilds student work in Stitched Textiles (Embroidery) and Patchwork and Quilting. The photo above is a piece by Bobby Francis. It is a big ‘installation’ of exuberant folded strips of stitched paper, which cascade from a height of about 6ft, to a ‘tumble’ on the floor. Below left is the ‘tumble’ as it lands on the floor, and below right is a detail of a stitched ‘seam’ that runs down the piece. I wondered if it was inspired by seams in rock, as rock formations was Bobby’s subject for her Research Project.

Bobby Francis, C&G Stitched Textiles

Bobby Francis, C&G Stitched Textiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby Francis

I watched Bobby’s Research Project with particular interest as her chosen subject (rock formations) was similar to mine (rocks and fossils). However, it’s amazing to see how very differently things turn out, even from a similar starting point. Here are a couple more of Bobby’s pieces (left and below) both of which I find very striking and exuberant.

Bobby Francis, C&G Stitched Textiles

In complete contrast, this lovely piece (below) by Barbara Deacon is stitched in delicate detail. It was made for Barbara’s god-daughter and her husband, and features the two continents of Africa and India that they each have particular connections to, through historical family connections and through travel. Dyed fabric is used beautifully for the sea and the land-mass, and the stitching is exquisite. I love the spirited elephants trotting across the top (see detail below).

Barbara Deacon, C&G Stitched Textiles (click to enlarge)

Barbara Deacon, C&G Stitched Textiles

Barbara Deacon, C&G Stitched Textiles (click to enlarge)

I think a mark of a good course is when each student develops work that is unique and personal to them. Another good example of this from the Missenden Abbey show is the work of Anne Lange (pronounced Anna). Anne’s special subject was lettering, particularly examples of specific historical bibles. Anne spent time doing observational drawings in the British Library, and researching old documents in her home town in Germany that have particular historical resonance for her family history. The piece below is a great example of her use of ancient styles and lettering, to produce a rich, encrusted piece that has echoes of medieval illuminated manuscripts as well as Opus Anglicanum goldwork, blending the English and German traditions together.

Anne Lange, C&G Diploma

Anne Lange, C&G Diploma

Anne Lange, C&G Diploma

The piece below by Anne shows her use of rich encrusted ‘bling’, in an arcading design that could be medieval. I recommend that you look at her website to see more examples of her work. There are some lovely goldwork pieces there, and some interesting Mandalas. Anna runs online stitched textiles courses from Germany, which can be accessed from other countries too. Check out her website here
 http://www.lange-nadel.de/

 

 

Anne Lange, C&G Diploma

A special mention should be made for Anne’s husband Burkhardt. Anne has travelled all the way from Germany for each of the Missenden Abbey C&G Certificate and Diploma weekends, spanning six years in total. Burkhard has driven with her from Germany each time, allowing her time to stitch in the car. Once I heard that, I discovered that I can stitch in the car without getting car-sick. Wonderful use of time. Husbands take note!!!

The Patchwork and Quilting work was impressive too. There were some beautiful full-sized quilts which I haven’t included here as I didn’t manage to catch the people who made them to ask their permission to put them on my blog. However, I did manage to catch up with three quilters who had made some small pieces ‘in the style of’ well-known quilt artists. It’s an interesting idea, to take the style and methods of someone well-known, and blend that with your own subject.

Chris Beamish, 'in the style of' Alicia Merritt.

Chris Beamish, ‘in the style of’ Alicia Merritt.

Chris Beamish, ‘in the style of’ Alicia Merritt (detail, click to enlarge).

Alison Mayall, 'in the style of' Phillipa Naylor.

Alison Mayall, ‘in the style of’ Phillipa Naylor.

Alison Mayall, 'in the style of' Phillipa Naylor (click to enlarge).

Alison Mayall, ‘in the style of’ Phillipa Naylor (detail, click to enlarge).

Kay Lockie, 'in the style of'  Kate Doughty.

Kay Lockie, ‘in the style of’ Kate Doughty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately I completely missed all the Patchwork and Quilting Certificate work, as we accidentally missed out a whole room. Congratulations to Charlotte Haenlein, a Patchwork and Quilting Certificate student, who is being nominated by Missenden Abbey for the Medal for Excellence. Hopefully we will see some of her work somewhere soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lion Awards

The Missenden Abbey Contingent: Jill Booker (Floristry Tutor) Jill Harden (Medal Winner, Floristry and Lion Award) Jane Robinson (Medal Winner, Stitched Textiles), and Janet Edmonds (Embroidery Tutor)

The Missenden Abbey Contingent: Jill Booker (Floristry Tutor) Jill Harden (Medal Winner, Floristry and Lion Award) Jane Robinson (Medal Winner, Stitched Textiles), and Janet Edmonds (Embroidery Tutor)

What a night! City and Guilds did us proud, with a great celebration of all the awards. Congratulations to Jill Harden, who also picked up a Lion Award for her Floristry course. Well done Jill and Jill!

'The Red Carpet'.

‘The Red Carpet’.

Not sure what made us laugh, but that's the kind of evening it was.

Not sure what made us laugh, but that’s the kind of evening it was.

Here I am on my first (and probably only) red-carpet photo-session! With any luck the official ones will be slightly better…(later comment – no, they weren’t!)

For me, one of the awards that particularly stood out was for Samith Rajapaksha, who travelled all the way from Sri Lanka to collect his award for International Learner of the Year. To do his course and get to his work-place, he had to walk two hours from his village every day. I liked his statement that ‘no dream is too big and no dreamer is too small’. I was also pleased to see an award for Ian Reynolds, Community Supporter of the Year, for his work supporting carers, ‘the forgotten people’.

 

It was a great evening; drinks, acrobats, eats, entertainments, speeches, awards, posh frocks, more drinks, and lots of socialising. We had some great conversations with so many interesting people, from different subjects, different age-groups and different social backgrounds. The one thing in common was a sense of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. It was great talking to some of the people in their twenties who had won awards – it was clearly a life-changing event. You could see the passion and energy that went into it all.  There were a few funny conversations, such as chatting to the felt-making medal-winner while our other-halves compared notes on the silk ties made by their respective partners. Here’s DH, sporting his.

DSC00073A rather strange photo on the right here, but it does record the extremely rare event of a good-hair-day, so here it is for posterity!

 

 

If I were you I wouldn’t start from here…

Soluble fabric and machine embroidery

Soluble fabric and machine embroidery

I do sometimes wonder if I’m just plain bonkers. Does this look to you like a dress that will be ready to be worn the day after tomorrow? I could have made life so much easier; but no. Starting out on this little journey, I had such a clear idea of where I was going: a red velvet dress with a ‘Taj Mahal’ neckline, with Indian-inspired gold embroidery round the neck and hem. Simples. But as I’ve gone along, little road-blocks have appeared along the way. I feel like the person who asks for directions only to be told ‘if I were you I wouldn’t start from here’. Instead of catching a quick and comfortable bus, I’ve embarked on a great long trek, minus maps.

Decide to make a dress (can’t find a pattern that’s right). Decide to make my own pattern instead (don’t know how to – have to have lessons). Decide on red viscose velvet (doesn’t come in red so I dye it). Dylon don’t make the right shade of red machine-dye (mix my own). Make up a prototype (looks like a hospital gown). Alter, adapt, tweak. Re-cut pattern (get in a muddle about adding and subtracting seam-allowances).  Start on machine-embroidery round the neck (it takes much longer than I expect. It always does. Why did I forget that?) Decide to save time by not embroidering round the arms (cut the shoulder slightly too narrow so it has to have embroidery after all as there isn’t enough for a seam allowance). Look for red shoes to go with it (fail to find ones I like & decide to dye some suede ones. After applying the dye, notice prominent note on the bottle that says ‘Only suitable for leather, not suede’).

Somehow I think my grasp of style and glamour has over-reached itself. Here’s a picture of me as a toddler. I really haven’t changed much.

Note to self: For next project, engage both brain cells at the same time!

 

Indian doodles and dress-making

Indian doodles and designs

I love the vibrant, highly saturated colours that are so special to Rajasthan. Here are some bits of art-work and a couple of stitch-samples from the Diploma course, based on Indian motifs. Designing and making the dress that I mentioned in my previous post seemed like a great opportunity to to explore these Indian themes further.

Machine-embroidered Indian design

Machine-embroidered Indian design

Indian block-print

Indian block-print

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counter-change design in felt

Counter-change design in felt

 

 

I had reached the doom-and-disaster phase of the project (does everyone get that I wonder???) when luckily my fellow Diploma students and I had one of our get-togethers. Settled in the sun in Elaine’s garden, I had the full focus of three ‘helpers’ to re-pin, adapt, cut and re-tweak the prototype. There was also great encouragement not to abandon the project. I think we ended up with something that looks less like a hospital gown and more like a dress!

 

Dyed viscose silk velvet

Dyed viscose silk velvet

On that basis I unpicked the prototype and made a new pattern, and dyed the viscose silk velvet to make the finished piece. Here’s the dyed fabric. I love viscose silk velvet because of the way it drapes, and catches the light as it moves. It soaks up dye in great thirsty gulps, which means you can achieve a really highly saturated colour. 3 metres of heavy fabric would be difficult to dye evenly by hand, so I did it in the washing-machine using Dylon machine-dye. Strangely, Dylon don’t seem to have a deep mid-red, so I used a tub of Orange and a tub of pinky-red. Luckily my theory worked, and it came out a deep mid-red colour. Designs for the neck and hem are based on the doodles below, which are a kind of embellished Taj-Mahal motif. Underneath that are some stitch samples for the dress (Janet trained us well!) Now the dress is half-made-up and I’ve started the machine-stitching on soluble fabric round the neck. I hope it works out OK. Eek! Watch this space!

Gold ink project cover

Gold ink project cover

Indian doodles - detail

Indian doodles – detail

Dress designs

Dress design

Machine embroidered stitch sample. Soluble fabric and viscose silk velvet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mysterious art of pattern-cutting

Dress design ideas. Comments welcome!

Dress design ideas. Comments welcome!

I’m looking forward to the City and Guilds Lion Awards Ceremony, which is held for all the Medals for Excellence winners at the Roundhouse in London in June.

There’s just one teeny weeny problem. The invitation states that the dress code is ‘glamorous and stylish’. Most women would see that as a wonderful excuse to go shopping. But let’s be brutally frank here; I’m definitely not a ‘glamorous and stylish’ shape! I tend to treat clothes shopping as a commando-raid. (Pause outside for last-minute pep-talk: balaclavas on: synchronise watches: then On the Command: In, grab, out!). What clothes designers just don’t seem to understand is that it is no good at all just scaling a design up from small to – er – not so small. How can I put this politely? Larger women will know just what I mean when I say that our proportions just aren’t the same as for as slim women! I start to send out distress signals from the changing rooms: ‘Emergency! Emergency! Please rescue me’. Just when I finally manage to squeeze into something that seems to have no method of getting back out of it, someone turns the changing-room thermostat to turkey-roasting, and I have to get OUT. RIGHT. NOW.

Instead, I’ve decided to design, make and embroider something myself, replacing ‘glamorous and stylish’ with ‘colourful and fun’. The idea is that that way it should fit, there’s no shopping-trauma involved, and it would be fun to wear some textile art. The designs above are a vague general idea, kind of Indian-inspired. I couldn’t find a paper pattern that I like and I have no idea how to make a customised pattern, so I’ve been for two pattern-cutting sessions with Kat at ‘Sew in Brighton’. In two sessions we had made a ‘pattern-block’ and customised it with a sweetheart neckline, princess seams and flared skirt panels. I was quite dumbfounded by the clever tweaking and manipulating. Cool! Problem solved! Except that having made up a rough trial version yesterday in an old dust-sheet, it looked suspiciously like a hospital gown. DH commented that the issue may be that I’m just not the same shape as the drawings of the fantasy dress. He’s living dangerously! Yes, yes, I know I’ve drawn the designs as a size 10. Go on, be my friend, indulge me!

I haven’t abandoned the idea of making a dress, but it’s in the balance. I thought that if I put it here in a post, that would be a way to call my own bluff because then I’d have to get on with it. (I reserve the right to completely back-track on this premature and rash post, and to shuffle off to the shops instead). Any comments or observations on the designs gratefully received!

City and Guilds Medal Award Ceremony

Medal Presentation. Left to right: Margaret Walker,  Chief Verifier for Creative Studies at City and Guilds; Janet Edmonds, Embroidery Tutor; Me; Beth French, Adult Learning Service Manager for Bucks CC.

Medal Presentation. Left to right: Margaret Walker, Chief Verifier for Creative Studies at City and Guilds; Janet Edmonds, Embroidery Tutor; Me; Beth French, Adult Learning Service Manager for Bucks CC.

What a big day on Saturday! Missenden Abbey hosted a lovely event for the presentation of the City and Guilds Gold Award Medal for Excellence for Stitched Textiles and for Floristry. There were a hundred or so people in the audience, including current City and Guilds students, my fellow Diploma students, Missenden Abbey staff, and DH for moral support. Thanks to Alison Pearce at the Abbey for organising a lovely event. It was all quite nerve-racking for someone who doesn’t like to be the centre of attention, but I really appreciated that the Abbey made it a special occasion. Despite my nerves it was lovely to be made a fuss of. The ceremony was for two of us – Jill Harden won a Medal for Excellence for her Floristry course. Here’s a photo of all of us.

Margaret Walker, Janet Edmonds, Me, Beth French, Jill Harden (Floristry Award Winner),  and Jill Booker, Floristry Tutor.

Margaret Walker, Janet Edmonds, Me, Beth French, Jill Harden, Floristry Award Winner, and Jill Booker, Floristry Tutor.

It felt very unreal to be receiving this award, because of my real diffidence, many years ago now, about signing on for the first part of the course (now the Certificate, then ‘Part One’.) I remember seeing the end of course show at Northbrook College and feeling inspired to try it but also feeling quite intimidated because I didn’t see how I could possibly reach a sufficient standard to do the first course, let alone the second one. Luckily the tutor, Sue Munday, made me laugh about this apprehension and so she was able to introduce me to the delights of design, colour, stitch and particularly machine-embroidery. It was many years later that I signed up for the Diploma Course with Janet Edmonds, and continued the creative journey. Janet has been an inspiring and encouraging teacher, who has opened door after door into new worlds. Her own work is amazing, and we have all learned so much.

I was really pleased that my fellow-students were able to come to the presentation. The support of the group has got us all through many ‘life events’ during the course, as ‘life’ has taken it’s twists and turns over the three years. It has been a pleasure to work alongside such positive and enthusiastic people, who are now firm friends.  Here we are, together with Janet Edmonds.DSC09999

Here’s Janet receiving her thank-you present from us, some time ago now, at the end of the course. It’s a sewing-roll, designed by Cheryl and stitched to her instructions by the four of us.DSC08437DSC08442

When shall we three meet again…

 

Coiled fabric pot

Coiled fabric pot

I’ve been working on coiled fabric pots and bowls lately. There’s something very soothing about the rhythmic, repetitive stitching involved in this kind of construction. The one above is made from strips of a dyeing-experiment-gone-wrong. It’s a great way to use up material where you like the colours but not the pattern. I’m currently working on a multi-coloured one made with strips of silk sari-waste – I’ll photograph it and add it to the blog when it’s finished.  I just can’t resist buying bundles of sari waste due to the glorious colours, so it’s good to finally find a purpose for it.

20140413_133716_Android - CopyFamily walk, Sussex DownsLast weekend we had a visit from my middle brother and his other-half, and my youngest brother and his daughter. Evelyn and Hannah wanted to learn how to make these coiled pots, so we had an impromptu session on how they’re constructed. It’s wonderful having art and stitch enthusiasts in the family. Seeing us sitting on the floor, heads bent together and absorbed in our own world, prompted theatrical mutterings from the men of ‘When shall we three meet again…’

We also had a lovely walk up to Chanctonbury Ring in the spring sunshine. When we were up there, we suddenly realised that it was almost exactly 50 years (!) since we three siblings were last all up there together. Here’s a photo of us last weekend: and one taken 50 years ago, with youngest brother being pushed (and pulled) up the South Downs Way in the Royal Chariot.

20140413_144353_AndroidI liked the gnarly shapes of this tree in Chanctonbury Martin and Tim 'guddling' in a beech treeRing – I can see it in soft manipulated felt with some highly textured stitching. It reminded me of one of my brothers’ less appealing pastimes when they were small. They would poke sticks into the dark crevices between tree roots, pulling out the dark, rotting leaf-mould and splatting it around in their hands. The leaf-mould was called ‘Yok’ (a word that can also describe anything squishy and slightly smelly and, well, ‘Yokky’). The whole process, for some reason, was called ‘Guddling’, and it had to be done with special ‘Guddling sticks’). These little time-warps are so strange.

 

The Great British Sewing Bee

Thank you everyone for your emails, and encouragement for the new website and blog. I’m pleased that people are starting to find their way here. I’m told that it can take several weeks for a new website to be ‘found’ and indexed by the googlebots. I picture them as rather grumpy little earwigs. The lazy critters are probably curled up together under a stone, so they need people to stir them up and send them scurrying. If you’re a kind soul who would like to help them find me, then you could do several things to help. You could add me as a ‘link’ to your own website or blog, you can ‘pin’ me (ouch!) or you can add a link to this website on Facebook or Twitter. Apparently this is what gets the googlebots really excited. When the critters wake up and do their job, it will be great to start getting new visitors who have stumbled in here through other routes. If that’s you, do say hello.

I think this might improve my time-management.

This might improve my time-management.

Tuesday today, and for the first time for weeks there’s no new episode of The Great British Sewing Bee. Like so many fellow embroiderers and sewers, I’ve been glued to the series. As well as showing great technical sewing skills, and flair for fabric and design, I thought it was a lovely demonstration of people refusing to be forced into competitive conflict. There was none of the false friendship, followed by back-stabbing, that seems to be ‘entertainment’ in most reality TV. Even when Great British Sewing Bee contestants were working under time pressure, if one person had a problem then someone else would help them to sort it out,. Imagine someone stumbling in a race, and the leader pausing to help them to their feet – how refreshing! As well as enjoying the sewing, I enjoyed the humour and banter that went on while they were working under such pressure. It’s interesting how many people watched it and talked about it, which just goes to show how popular sewing is. What did other people think?

 

 

‘…a heaven in a wild flower’

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.  (William Blake) 

People ask me why I’m setting up a website and blog. Sometimes I burble something about creativity and joy, but I often trail off in favour of the ‘sensible’ reasons, such as ‘I hope to develop my textile art more professionally’ or ‘I plan to offer work for sale’. Occasionally I talk to someone who ‘gets it’ straight away, which encourages me to carry on with my rather vague and half-hatched ideas (thank you Holger in particular, for insight and encouragement just at the right point). 

Dali's clock

Dali’s clock. What a sensible way to organise time.

Anyone with a passionate special interest may know the intense pleasure of being totally, ridiculously absorbed. I find that a strange thing happens when I’m involved in art or stitch. The annoying, insistent logical left brain gets blocked, and the more diffident, easily intimidated creative right brain finally has space. Irritating things that get in the way are quite simply shut out (clocks, timetables, sharp or jagged noises, and all the insistent things that bleep, ping, flash, ring and insist on our attention right now). Time quite literally seems to stand still; but at the same time, in a way that I don’t understand, an hour can expand to become a day. Whoever decided that the day could only have only 24 hours in it is tricked into allowing some secret extra hours to slip in. You really can go to Narnia, have adventures for months, and get back in less than a minute. There is time to really look. Eventually something from the so-called ‘real’ world forces itself back in, and the volume of the ticks and tocks gets turned up again. But something wonderful happens when you share this total absorption with other people. The two worlds become less separated, and it is easier to cross from one to the other. I’m grateful to my fellow students on the City and Guilds Stitched Textiles course at Missenden Abbey for their shared obsession and absorption in minute details of important things, like colours, textures and shapes. I appreciate things that other people share on their websites or blogs (images, ideas, original work, thoughts and observations). So it’s time to add my own offerings.

Kevin, the magician who set this website up with me last week is away travelling, so I’m like a brand new driver out on the motorway with no instructor. I promised to try not to break the website while he’s away. I did manage to delete the whole Gallery instead of one image, but thankfully I found a way to reinstate it. Please bear with me if strange things happen. Anyway, I’m glad you’ve found my blog, and I’d love to know who you are and how you got here.

 

Goldwork embroidery: 3D floating fossil rock

This embroidered floating fossil rock was a Goldwork piece for the City and Guilds Diploma in Stitched Textiles (Embroidery). It uses traditional metal thread techniques. Silk and viscose velvet was dyed with Procion dye, and the ‘veins’ in the rock were machine-stitched with Madeira FS20 thread in black and gold. The goldwork fossils are stitched with traditional metal thread techniques (leather kid, jap, purls and pearl purl) and the fabric is then scrunched and tweaked into the 3D rock. It floats on electro-magnets, using ‘Levitron Fascinations EZ float’ technology.

I hope you enjoy it.