Memories of Summer

This I think should be title of the new series. They are a distinct group, using more paint and wet media on vintage/pre- used fabrics, and then straightforward freehand machine embroidery. Still creating defined areas by changing the stitch patterns and layering colours and types of thread. The colour palette is minimal, as is the amount of stitch, a great deal of emphasis is on the spaces – well I do live in Yorkshire!

The series so far-

The last one I am not yet happy with- the colours for the rear hedgerow are not bold enough, but there again I did want them to fade away, but I think it is over worked already…. I shall leave it for a while and then decide what to do. There a four or five more I want to get underway first. Some were drawn directly on to the fabric – those are fun!

This is a re-emphasis of the local landscape, the simplicity of flat fields; boundaries and trees are the features not majestic hills or a grand sweep of a coastline. These are quiet, understated expressions of landscape, but the heat the painted colours give just seem to sing of the joy of being out there in the summer warmth and brightness.

On the plus side the local galleries should be able to open in December. York is going to be in tier 2, but people are still be very cautious about open commitments. I have the big drama queen “Wharfedale” and the meditative “Cloud Forest” at the Blossom Street Gallery, and a new exhibition with smaller pieces opening with the varied Westside Artists group at the Village Gallery on Colliergate.

Happy November!

Biggish News – the York Textile Artists group are having and on-line “event” this coming week ( 14th to 21st) in lieu of the actual winter exhibition which is cancelled due to covid lockdown. We have had things going on Instagram and facebook over the last couple of weeks which has been quite fun. I have 6 major pieces, old and new, on offer plus new and very exclusive Christmasy cards, and a few other bits and pieces for your virtual delectation.

Hop over to my shop window page for more on the pieces and the Christmasy cards.

Of course the new Lockdown has squashed my energies sideways – again. All of the distraction projects are done, so a new one is happening (Mission Murmuration with the little birds) while the genuine work project gets pushed to one side and only 6 Christmas cards have been finished!!

The new proper work is based on the painted sketches from the summer. Highly coloured backgrounds, sharp textures done with colour and minimal stitched drawing. Well that was the plan.

Layer one – Vintage (used and abused) natural fabrics. Randomly applied primary colours. I tried ink and paint, used brushes and ended up applying with a squeegee and a stick.

Layer 2 – Overlaying more colour. This had a nasty habit of mixing into a blurry sludge colour or of being too thick. So how to apply dry colour- painted it onto bondaweb (a fusible web)! Still haven’t worked out which paint works best but it can give intense areas of colour and broken textures – usually in the wrong place.

Layer 3 – Stitch. Freehand machining but with minimal colour changes and using a lot of space.

I like the sharpness of the finished pieces. I like the weird lollipop things which are a leftover from the fabric’s first incarnation. Limitations are time and scale. Drying x 2, fusing then stitching isn’t that quick. Small to medium scale works best for the web- but of course I want to get big, also the half acre of linen I have to use up doesn’t take as well as the old cottons which tend to be very white….. tea bags? coffee stain, or the pile of pale rust stained calico prepped for a workshop that didn’t happen? Hmm….

Stitcher’s Block

This isn’t an arcane ( but very useful) piece of equipment like a tailor’s ham or a binding foot. This is where I am at just at this moment.

I do need deadlines, targets and real people to do things for. At the moment I could sit and sew trees on muslin any day and everyday but it is losing its verve and edge through repetition. I could make mini Wharfedales, but where is the fun in that?

I have been out sketching, painting, watching the clouds, been squeaked at by small, small, furry things (stoat or weasel?), did more sketches.

Yes they are fine. The use of colour is more exaggerated than I usually go for, the textures are more immediate. I have painted up some backgrounds ready to launch into…. and I have washed up, cleaned the kitchen, repointed some brickwork. Just can not get started. Ho. Hum.

I have just been using primary colours and white, cycling and having to carry everything focusses the idea of ‘need’ quite strongly.

I even took the coloured backgrounds back out to draw directly on to them…. tried to stitch today but just couldn’t get it going. I shall have another think and play.

In the meantime the white on white ‘Cloud Forest’ trees are on show at the Blossom Street Gallery, York, and soon at the Wytchwood Gallery in Naburn.

Quick forest progress report….

They are still growing – not bigger, thank goodness, but in number. We now have 3 white on white handstitched, 3 scribble machine stitched plus one skeleton tree.

These have spent the afternoon in various places wafting in the breeze and looking amazingly good. The white ones are difficult to site but once you see them against a darker background or against a window they are deliciously delicate and barely there ephemeral.

I have some finishing and presentation to do and then this batch will be ready. Ready to photograph- hah! that is not going to be easy!, and to display…. I do need a bigger house.

The state of play first thing this morning… was not looking encouraging

The latest one is an argumentative one. No single decision has worked out as expected and I reckon there is another evening to be spent making it all work together in the design. This one has two layers of the muslin in areas- some flat, some slightly raised, and varying amounts of stitch, bolder around the edges and lines of running stitch across the centres making tone and pattern.

Ouch.

A side effect of all the extra handwashing and wiping down etc. My hands have gone soft and I keep sewing my fingers!

Stitching trees

Aim: create a textile forest of hanging trees and landscapes

Oh well. Aims and aspirations are good things they tell us.

I have cotton lawn, bleached and unbleached. What else could I do other than stitch trees on it.

They were going to be small (ish). Oops.

They have been reduced to about a metre, or a metre 20 or so. 1.5m was just too much.

In progress. In the work room doorway, so it is not as if they are in the way or anything!

Worrying thought: How many trees make a forest. I think I may have enough to call it a ‘stand’ or even a ‘clump’. Copse next, then a wood……

And because I find extended periods on the machine hard to sustain I thought I would do one by hand….. just to fill up the spare time ( and the TV choices were pretty poor most evenings)

My fingers are sore, I definitely need a trip to the optician, my back and shoulders creak alarmingly, but I am enjoying this! At the moment.

None of this is technically difficult, just a bit fiddly having to work with a small hoop and water soluble stabiliser, and also very time and thread hungry. (pedalling off into the noon day sun (overcast) to get new supplies once this is posted!)

It is all done by hatching, even the hand stitched one, and the thread is mostly standard all purpose machine thread – again, even the hand one. Have you spotted which one he is?

The Covid Interrupteds

Like many people the lockdown knocked all of the momentum out of my making. These half done projects are the Interrupteds. They are an extended family of landscape experiments and textural pieces and tree examples, a mix of machine work, applique, and paint.

I have had this in mind for a while, but the Banner was the perfect excuse to avoid doing it. Now that I have had to clear the studio in town and bring everything home, it meant even less excuse – doing the ‘quilt’ would ‘help’ tidy up- at least everything unfinished would be in one place all the time!

The backing was ready made – it was a rejected prototype for the Yorkshire Gothics hangings- so out with the scissors and pins and the left over wools from the needlepoint done in January and we were off! All of the sewing is by hand and I am trying hard not to cheat – nothing new, nothing made to go into the mix, and everything wonky!

I keep declaring it done, then finding another abandoned piece – one of the perils of tidy up I suppose. ( Knew housework was bad for me)

Merchant Taylors :And it all ended….

It is finished, de-whiskered, tweaked and handed over – gone. And of course now I have cleaned my glasses I can see that I should have taken better photographs. Of course!

Brief – banner for the Merchant Taylors, York. To be hung in the guild hall and used to process through York to the Minster. To include guild coat of arms, name. Antique but sharp. Texture rather than flat graphic. 1m x 1.5m. Not frilly. Natural linen, technique – mine.

While I do pictorial and abstract work, this is a first. It had to be read clearly as it is, after all, the identifying symbol of the guild. – Fudging potential – limited.

Layer one: the fun bits, lots of experiments in textures and materials to get intensity at this scale. The coloured linens helped to bring the design together – they make the small shield, the base for the giant flourishes (moustaches) and the yellow is one of the fabrics used on the cameleopards. I would only know if these worked as as a whole when the piece went together.

Phase two: assembling. Quite a lot of stabiliser, trimming out, bond a web and stitching later, the pieces are mounted on to the larger shield. This does not appear on the coat of arms but was used as a design device to focus attention and hold all of the parts together in the centre of the banner- giving it more presence. It also let me work on a lighter and smoother linen than the backing, much easier to handle.

Once it came together and I could see the overall plan working for the first time, Background One was discarded for being too obvious and bland. The next choice didn’t have enough body to carry the uneven weight of the applique, but the third option was worth waiting for. A linen and flax cloth- practically loom state, lots of slubs and inclusions giving it a warmth and texture, wonderful for the aged idea we were aiming for. (Smelt wonderful too – summer meadows!)

Putting the whole thing together took took far too much effort. It didn’t seem to matter how it went together there were always problems. The intention was always to quilt – the raised surfaces would catch the light and give a sense of movement. The central section had to be hand quilted – I need a bigger machine and bigger muscles. The borders were machine quilted to give a subtle interest – based on the beautiful stained glass window in the guildhall (the thread and needle originated from there too) And then many finishing handsewn details to add (that is the fourth needle by the way) and it was done.

Summary – A fabulous commission, a sincere ‘thank you’ to the Merchant Taylors. A lot of fun to do and a real challenge, but also frustrating at times. Many of the problems are down to me, being stubborn about materials, getting sequences wrong and over thinking at times. Lockdown has had an impact too, making sourcing materials difficult, but in the end it has turned out really well. It has a life, a personality to it. And yes, it is a ‘him’, of course! Are there things I would do differently? another ‘of course’, it would be disappointing if there weren’t!

It was collected yesterday and the initial response from the Merchant Taylors is positive, I hope it lives up to their expectations and gives many years of service.

If you are interested in the making process then please see previous posts which follow it through all the stages.

Technical information.

It is big and heavy. Made by me. Sewn on linens of various weights, including vintage pieces, appliqued silks and various found fabrics scraps. Threads – various, vintage machine twist, rayons and modern utility threads.

Leonard ( here pronounced leo-nard) the Cameleopard ( pronounced cam-el-o-pard) is off to his new home! Hurrah! I am already missing him.

Merchant Taylors

Lettering done , twice . the first was trying too hard to be perfect and came out looking like a computerised machine had done it rather than wobbly line me! Now it works much more sympathetically with the rest of it, with the imperfections and misalignments and the two tone colour- I shall call those ‘character’ from now on. Also the cameleopards have had a bright shiny yellow dash of colour, they look much happier. Leonard and …. still can’t decide… Reginald or Sidney?

Looking at these photos I really should have pressed the linen more – just trying slightly different layouts. Placing the two ribbons of lettering… I like the top one ( with a proper shield shape), but the bottom one is rather slick and smart. But now I am wondering if the background shield shape should be there at all? should it be one piece of cloth right to the edges- there is a quilting design element to fill in around the main coat of arms. Must make decisions!

Merchant Taylors update

I have been commissioned to make a banner for the Company of Merchant Taylors in York. This has been on going, you may remember earlier posts.

It is nearing completion – of course progress has been affected by the lockdown. Getting hold of supplies has proved a major stumbling block – either companies have closed for the duration, or limited in what they can offer, or the postal service has been unreliable. Some of these you can deal with but the uncertainty has been difficult to cater for. I want a stronger colour background but I think that many of the samples I ordered have gone feral in the system somewhere…. I only have a short pathway to the letterbox but the postie keeps walking past, I even cut the hedge to entice him in…. one day my turn will come… soon, I hope.

This is it at the moment, all the major pieces are done or hovering in creative anticipation, but not sewn down. We have achieved cameleopards! Like most of it they are at about 85% done – that 15% is left for fine tweaking and detailing. At the moment I feel they are a bit dull ( want to call one Leonard, and may be the other Geoffrey, says it all). They are still on water soluble stabiliser until the colours are finalised and are ready to be stitched in place. When/if I can get hold of some other options for the background (Monday was promised) I will know what needs to be done. The title is also waiting to go – again I have to know about backgrounds to get the scroll colour and the lettering colour right. Please let it arrive on Monday!!

Now for some gratuitous cameleopard shots. But which is a Geoffrey? As you can see lots of little things to do – more gold, outlines, rose centres, eyeballs, flagpole, trimming out and of course the pattern in the background, making up with tab tops and quilting. And yes, it is big – 1m x 1.5 finished size -about the size of the fabric it is laid out on!

Still Here 3:

The abstract hangings have caused some concern this last couple of weeks. Tip from House of Brammer – never, ever second guess yourself. First they decided they needed a little brother tree -( Baby Ronald) – machined this on the same fine cotton using water soluble fabric as a stabiliser. Thought it looked great until I tried to photograph it with the others.

Hmm.

I should dye it to give more substance to the workings. Got scared so only used very dilute colour. Ended up grubby grey (subtle and soft dove grey).

Hmmm.

Dye it more strongly. Lost all definition of the thread. Bleached it back to grubby ( subtle and soft dove grey).

Hmmmm.

Looked so promising in the sink!

Want colour- not too overpowering, hints and shifts to engage notice and to catch the light. Even had a sample to experiment on. Which is still looking great, just as I imagined. Shame about the main pieces. (delicate shifts of tone with hints of hue) Do I dye again, the danger is going for overkill out of frustration.

Hmmmmm.

Do love them in the sun and shade. But still can’t catch it on camera. And now have to finish the edges properly. And do a couple more trees. Hate it when I don’t win!

So as an antidote to all that subtlety…. Iris time again. That intense blue of the Siberian iris, how they pose and dance- total little show offs. Love them!

And I had some sample silk paints to try, and some silk scarves to be painted, and the sun was shining- what else had to be right?

Well this is me, the wind blew and so did the pot of blue. This is why the last one in the top right is mostly not blue. Great fun to do all the same.