Spring is coming.

Hurrah! Nearly Sprout free zone.

He is quilted and currently hanging before backing and binding.

New task is in response to the lighter and longer days promising Spring (trying to ignore all the grey and drab days). Bulbs are coming up, buds are swelling, birds are getting noisy and one of the local cats has been snoozing in the middle of the garden, so I feel a bit of a shake up is required too.

 Light, bright and fluffy is the aim, and when looking for a source for an art class I found a Monet painting – one of the Poplars series- that just fit the bill. All light, purples and golds, glowing combinations with light jadey blues and delicate porcelain colours. Why not another stitcher? Well, I don’t want to see the answers ready made, I find that finding my own solutions makes me ask more questions, and having worked out the problem I see the decisions others have made with greater clarity.

Task one – picking out individual colours. Of course I don’t have the ones I want – in part the Sprout has eaten them, so I am already losing, but I am not trying to recreate the picture, just to get a feel for how the colours and tones work.

Task two – working with the colours together. The Impressionist techniques, with their broken coloured surfaces, I thought would work quite well in thread. Oh dear. I have made a start and of course got it wrong straight away. This is a natural talent.

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The dark green has been eaten alive, it is just a dark now – it worked until the lighter purple came to town. The mid green has had all of its green-ness sucked away and reads as a dull grey tone and has been abandoned. Even the bright green will only go out mob handed.  I wonder if the purple was just too dominant a shade.

It is hard to be patient and not try to correct immediately but will wait and see what happens as the more vibrant colours come on.

 

And this is the end result, as it developedimg_20190210_103507840 the colours popped and balanced more but it was hard to gauge not only which shade of a colour but also how much of it was required.  The  toffee gold was weaker than expected against the sky but the off white  shouts. The pale pink disappears in places but makes a bid for world domination in others (next Bond villain?) The key is more about contrasts and context I think- the similar tones try to blend,  the grey in the muted colours gathers strength if several are put together. Obviously blocks of colour show more  than single strands- most of the time, and the more small quantities are mixed the more ‘tweed’ the outcome.  This little study was never meant to be a ‘piece’ just a learning curve. Technically it is a disaster zone but I have enjoyed the challenge. Finally worked out that the tension problems were above not below and read the manual-  cleaned trapped threads from between the tension discs.(2 minutes with tension at 0 and the use of a large pin!)

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The current ‘proper piece’ has been a silent victim of the experimentation, might have over compensated with the bluey green but I felt it needed a moment away from the purple  bully. I may try changing the build sequence – rather than adding the darker areas first, perhaps get some of the lights in and work down the tonal scale rather than up? Maybe dye and stain to a mid tone before or in the early stages so that I can work away from it ? Hmm.

Don’t forget have ‘classes’/ project workshops available Wed 20th and Fri 22nd February.

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Oh Happy Sprout!

Done. DONE!  Sprouting is over.  Well the ‘fun’ bits are.  There is only more pressing, quilting , backing, binding and hanging to do.  Seeing as I was teaching and working in a shop that sells quilting supplies, it was amazing how completely I forgot to get some wadding to quilt it with. This level of idiocy takes some serious talent, and lots of practice.img_20190201_095330706

I have stretched it but as it hung  afterwards the distortion caused by the stitching has come back.  May be some more stabiliser? but I would rather it hung easily,without tensions.  No, acknowledge the fault and use,  do not try to hide. Perfection would be a bore, and if I don’t have something to angst over then I might feel the need to do some housework.

Things I would change – the height of the back hill – don’t think I have tied the left  treeline to the rest of the image effectively enough and the curve makes it look like an eyebrow. I wouldn’t mind a touch more of something in the deadzone that is the middle ground. More tone in the green? At least the old boiled sprout colour has become less dominant. I do like it as a colour but not in wholesale quantities.  At the very least this piece has gobbled up a vast amount of thread – well over a kilometre I guess. I now need to go on a major foraging mission – I think I am going to shift more towards Madeira threads- their base is just half an hour away and round the corner is the source of sublime  bacon sandwiches!  Always a silver lining.20190130_152818-collage Its next public appearance should be in April for the York Open Studios – the invitation is there- come and see the Sprout (properly named by then!) in its native habitat – I am nmber 96.

The March of the Sprout

I have promised to stop calling this Sprout,  the same way that the Big Beastie is supposed to known as Middle Moor. Yeh, that worked.

I have sprouted away this week to good purpose. The tipping point is past, and it is now that manic downhill race to completion, exhilarating  and getting faster and faster but so easy to lose concentration and end up flat on your face.

From bones and structure this week has been about clothing and fleshing, some so subtle that it barely shows, other parts have made dramatic impact. It is now about detail, balancing formal elements and making sure the image reads in the way I want.  Spot the difference a week can make? (8) I think you have to be here to see them.


Main areas done would be the sky – inked as promised and fairly gloomy – it is Yorkshire in a soggy January.  And the road way.  This isn’t yet complete – but it reads better with the texture  and the sudden flashes of colour,  but both will be damped down to get that contrast in surface  quality to the undergrowth that I want.  I did try straighter lines of couching but it felt false , and gradually added more and more fluff and contrast. So it may look ambiguous – one friend saw it as a river – but ….. And the pink? Rather like the pink  ( a piece of sari silk)  it does make me question the state of my eyesight – the reds and saturated colours are all so close to the front.  I think more contrast in the verge. Navy or purple?

And the sky? Not impressed.  I like the cloudiness and the subdued tones but the physical surface is so flat and matt. I may feel the need to stitch, possibly quilt just to give it some life.  Quilting is likely anyway – I have not used stablisers so there is a fair amount of  ripple.  The calico has done well coping with the uneven weight and drag of the stitching but if it is going to hang it could do with a bit of support. This did begin as a good rectangle, cut on the grain, but that is distant memory.

And so the saga of Sprout continues. I do intend to have the imagery finished by the end of the week – I think about another 3 or 4 hours of concentrated stitching, with lots of pressing and pondering (coffee breaks).  Achievable? The to do list is nearly in single figures- the time of sprout is passing….  and I have a series of other deadlines to meet.

 

Don’t forget workshops/tutorial times available  on Wed evening and Friday mornings – check the Want to try  tab.

The Most Difficult bit…. and workshop call

I am an experienced and  effective tutor of art and textiles as well as exhibiting artist. I am.  I have spaces in  Wednesday evening and  Friday morning  classes –  all levels and stages of experience and aspiration are welcome to come to play and enjoy creative textiles. Please contact either through email (on right) or the comments if interested. There will be coffee and tea, but I have already eaten the biscuit stash, (marketing not a strong point).   I thought I would get this out of the way before anyone reads the rest of it……

 

Well the Fairly Large Beastie with Sprouts  is steaming along,  nearly all of the base sewing is done and some places have multiple layers of work on them. This is where it gets difficult – there is a huge investment of time and effort in there and it is going from the experimental building phase to the consolidation phase.  Now I have to weld it all together, make those early decisions good and work upon the thing as a whole.

The stitching on the hills is the point of no return – so far a light varigated and a dull mid blue on the far left slopes. Still don’t like it – too flat and contrived. The treeline has  more stitch in it, working in blocks of hatching like the original sketch – might leave the trees behind as they are – very crude and sketchy.

The right is better – closer to the experimental rough work – but I still have to be brave and commit to working on the road way.  There are just too many niggly decisions attached to all the areas.  What I want is to  take alot of that green paint out – it flattens and homogenises now that I’m trying for subtle.

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I may be drastic, it may be bold, or it may be stupid: tell you afterwards.  The inking option is about to be realised. This is a bit derring do – sink or swim- in my best tradition.

 

Always was going to play with wet colour  in the top half – blooms and runs of  ink/stain washed and scrubbed into the fabric. Its time has come – the stark flatness of the calico is distracting  and killing the subtle stitching done in the tree line.     Will this be tightly controlled and considered? Of course not, what a daft question. It is going to be -do it and pray, then do some more, have a coffee, start thinking about bleach, rinse off in the shower and worry about the how and where of drying later.   It is a cold, dank and damp day so not happening outside – this will be attacked  flat on the biggest table and apologise to the carpet afterwards ( I think of the splashes and drips as honourable  battle scars).    I just hope I  have some inky stuff hiding upstairs. Should press it and de-whisker it first. Why is everything so complicated?

Probably not my brightest  idea.  Definitely not, but I can not bear working on something that is going flat and predictable on me. Deciding not to use big, blank spaces in the composition – which twit advised that?  Umm, me.

Please do not call round today – it may be dangerous.

Oops.

anything other than the Sprout!

img_20190106_095710824This was last week, rough and scruffy paint to give me some idea of where and what when I roll it up to sew, ( also handy when upside down and stitching!)  It is very sparse and undeveloped with the two blobs waiting for attention on the right- they will become thorn trees.

I worked on this on and off during the week and then took it as my work in progress/demo piece for the open day at Viking Loom yesterday. It has progressed in many ways. This is it now –  the blobs are very sprout- like,  day old boiled sprouts. I do love this colour but at this time of the year the associations are somewhat unfortunate….

IMG_20190113_103426461 The bottom left is just about done – some areas will be plucked to break up the colour and surface, and a top dressing  required on the conifer belt and the major bushes, but they will happen later as part of the ‘balancing’ stage. It is a case of where has all the brown and orange silk gone? Waste putting it in? Never – it peeps through in places and lends an intensity to the colours above.  and most of all it makes the thin spots in the stitch work as a positive rather than look like holes! Really pleased with the mad green varigated section of tufty chenille wool and the scrunched  and shredded bleached sari lengths at the bottom.

Pics below show some of the evolution – working in layers front to back, the type and density of stitch and the fabrics used.

I don’t like working one section up like this but I kept losing sight of the whole and started to get worried by the scale of the thing.  It really does show how dense to work is – the plain calico looks blank and bland, the paint looks flat, the sprouts and tree line look like a bit of nonsense. The other problem is the distortion caused by the stitching. This badly needs stretching before I do more. I had meant to leave the distortions as part of the nature of the beast but the piece is already very out of true.-

Next tasks – fore and middle ground to the right- sort out hillsides, get some flatter stitching in , maybe partially  happen to a sprout or two as well.

I am trying out Instagram (oops), so see daily-ish updates if your life is lacking sproutiness, and of course don’t forget about the upcoming opportunities – every fortnight Wed eve and Friday am  from 23rd Jan – introductions, techniques or project work, as you please.

Machine embroidery workshops and progress!

I have a series of dates avialable upto mid March  for learners and enthusiasts to come and play in my workroom, a chance to get started or to develop  your own ideas.  There is a basic programme but it  is there to be cherry picked or ignored as desired!  I am offering 2 hour sessions  on a Wednesday evening and Friday morning once a fortnight.  Details are on the website.

As for the new Biggish Beastie – Well, did you really expect me to pay any attention to myself? To follow my own guidelines and expectations?  Silliness.

Could not get my head together so sidestepped the problem to find fresh anxieties and questions to avoid.

This was where we left  it – rough patches of fabric, woll stitching, just beginning to map out the major areas and hint at textures. So found the blankness too big, and processes too slow.  Bring out to paint! Lay down some background, make it so I can see what is to happen rather than having to image it all the time.

This was thin acrylic with textile medium and worked in layers to build a bit of surface –  all so high tech –  printing off  scraps of cellophane and combing. It can not be thick because of the stitching to follow and is only the supporting act, not the main attraction.

The first layer of crosshatch stitching has started to weld the conifers together and wandering lines have begun to describe the scale and nature of the belts of vegetation and hedge lines.   There is still far more work ahead than behind but the structure is established . How much of this will be evident at the end? Very little, I expect, but I have more confidence in it now, it is less fluffy ideas and more directed intentions. Does this mean I know how it will look? Of course not? As ideas come together they will have to adapt and compromise untill they fit together, but this is the start of the real dialogue.

img_20190106_095710824Next steps? – Probably map out the treeline and foreground. Start on the empty space in the right bottom corner, but keep the interplay of spaces and concentrations of colour and texture going and build on them.

It needs ironing again. Already.

cOLOUR bACKWARDS

I know it is a bit of an obsession, but….  and it is giving me a head ache just trying to be coherent and wonderfully together over that old bugbear – COLOUR, and structured working practice.

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So which approach is the most effective?  Is what I am currently doing working –  umm….

are past approaches better? umm…..   Define ‘better’.

OK, harmonies are meant to work well together, but without contrast become bland or flat.   Using low saturation complex colours reads as beige.  Beige has a tendency to read as grey or to disappear. Multiple broken colours tend to eat each other.   Rayon threads rely on light levels and quality of light to read as true colours.  What works small does not work big.  And that is just the start.

So start with a ground. Let this show through a little and it can make subtle differences lifting or squashing colours, make shading, and all  without multiple  thread changes. It can also help with transitions between colour areas.  Saturated base colours throw everything else off kilter, pale yellow is easy to overpower, but it does make it more exciting.

So create a base of  either coloured fabric or applied  fabric pieces. Or how about tapestry wool which can give a more complex, finer areas of colour to work over.  Does this make it sound easy? Yes.  Can’t be that easy in my little world.

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And this is the idea at present, big bit of work to be the next making.  Looks just like the sketch! At the moment it is merely one lump of old patterned silk to be the base for the forground scrub and some rough stitched tapestry wool as the base for a stand of conifers.  The fabric is to argue with the following colours and to give a coherence, the yarn is to work  with, providing  harmonies and depths of colour and texture. The next layers will be machined – but what?  mid tone hues to get the colour established?  Shadow colours to start creating depth in the foreground? Should it be more neutral colours to work out tonal ranges and contrasts?  Or will it be the usual erratic and dabbling approach, as in ‘all of the above, and then some’?  It is so big that I may have time and space to try all of them, repeatedly.

I think I need to find a fancy name for my working method that will it make it seem more deliberate and artistically worthy.  An ‘ism’ perhaps.

If the witterings haven’t put you off- remember I have several  come and try opportunities  very soon. Take a look at the workshops page on the website or on the other pages on this site….