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Back to the Woods

Weellll…..    the new creative burst began with an encounter with curious bullocks, dragonflies, two hares and a crazed cyclist ( his lycra must have been too tight).

At this time of year I like being up and doing early. I think my neighbour would object to sewing machines  before 6 am so I am going out sketching instead- just collecting ideas and options, (this did lead to the bullock encounter). P1060814

This morning was in the local woods and it was the little places, the ordinary ones that caught my imagination.  This was a simple view at the edge of the wood, the sun catching the birch tree on the fringe and it was glowing with light seen through the trunks and delicate foliage of the wood proper. A very quiet beauty. No great drama of composition or texture, or even colour, but…..  The sketch is crude and under developed but that view and idea was the one I thought about on the way home.

It is now beginning in stitch. To be honest it is at the questioning phase, so looks like nothing. Hopefully the questions will lead to answers and the whole may be resolved but it will take time.

P1060806Layer 1 the birch – worked on water soluble fabric.  When washed away the black lines  should also go leaving a lacy  web.  I quite fancy manipulating this to create differing densities and concentrations of colour and textures, so the overall shape may change. And it may need some blue for shadows. And….

 

 

 

 

Layer 2 – mid ground – tree trunks. The purple pen is air erasable so should have faded by morning. Used a heavier thread, and for the top set of branches worked over crewel wool to give it more body.

And then decided to add on foliage. This was delicate and almost silhouetted, so the first pass was a dark teal stitched in a stop start pattern. Added in purple for more density, then dark red for dark contrast, bright jade for light and a mid blue to fill in the holes. So the planned 3hrs sewing turned into 5. (Sorry hedge, may be we will get together with the trimmers tomorrow) And this is how is staying for the moment. At least until  tomorrow morning.P1060812

Questions –  What will happen when the fabric is washed out.   I am imagining adding a stitched layer to each of the floating layers as they are fixed down, or perhaps not. It will depend on how they wash out.   Also may need to add more colour  in each layer – again won’t know until the soluble is washed out.  Is there enough for the idea to work?  It may get washed out and then put straight back on another piece for more content to be added.

Do I put it on  a neutral background? or a colour or a worked ground? Or none at all?

And the foreground – how much/ how little? Inclination is to go very dark for strong contrast, but……   I don’t even know if the composition is going to work – will it have that little bit of magic that I saw?

Oh well. I will find out tomorrow, you may have to wait until next week.

“I Want to be a Tree!”

I have started doing classes on Sundays –  and with working and doing courses at the Viking Loom on Saturdays, this means  my weekends are now harder work than my week!  Have survived and had a good day today doing trees.

I quite like trees, you might have noticed. Todays venture was titled “I  Want to be a Tree”.  They are a fabulous vehicle for teaching this form of freehand sewing. Lots of potential for experimentation with technique, style, texture and colour.  I totally enjoyed myself.  I have polished off the afternoon watching the men’s final  tennis from Paris, and writing the blog, slowly, is the next way of avoiding going out to mow the lawn.

 

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A matter of moments to gather examples, samples and original artwork!

 

With a wall full of tree-ness we spent the day sketching from sources,  refining approaches and exploring processes.

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This one is just short of being finished – a bit more working into the foliage and the trunk filled in and it should be done.

And as for this one…P1170285

June and July I have set aside and making and doing time. Lots of getting out and thinking so approaches and expectations.

But first must mow the lawn……

York Open Studios 2017

Well, this is it folks. Nearly ready – just admin-y things to do.YOS 2017 Logo bleed_CMYKLargehttps://www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk/

Open Sat 10 -6 and Sunday 11 – 5.

Do hope you can come, it is excellent fun and usually informative – I have found some fantastic makey – do-ey people in my local area through this event, one, a jeweller, literally just round the corner!  Of course the highlight will be coming to me! No 38 (take away dish or taxi car?).

blog april

Cornish Cliffs

I fancied seeing how far these patterned and transparent collages on top of images could go. I had this elderly left over canvas from a Cornish holiday – elderly painting -Cornwall coast dodgy paint techniques, over thinned colour, uninspired composition.  Not an ideal choice, too big, cheap thin canvas. Nevermind….  Planning involved more dithering than doing, selecting pattern and colour, fabric types and threads.   Did remember to do one important cheat – traced the big tonal areas onto the back.- more later.

Cornish Cliffs -planning  The Cliffs are 2 different patterned silks – big bold patterned stripes and a coarser faded floral for the headland. The proposals for the sea were layers of sheers – to be decided later.

Back cliffs first- vertical patterning to mimic the rock formations, working from the back the first stitching anchored the fabric and then roughly blocked in the shadow areas. I would recommend working from the back – you just roughly place/pin the fabric on the front, flip over, stitch the lines drawn on the back, flip back and trim the excess away.  No worries about placement or accuracy.

The fabrics were build up block by block – already much more vivid than the paint. The stitching from the back worked well to establish the shapes and masses. The decision to use purple as a shade colour didn’t, it was to clean and strong against the fabric, it was removed or adapted immediately.

I got too excited by the sea to manage to record the sequence. (Lie – didn’t expect it to work so didn’t bother to photograph) It is strips and pieces of 2  tone organzas, purple orange, green red, blue orange, sari strips with frayed edges . Stitching was in one colour using a less regular utility stitch ( think its for sewing elastic) A sheer was over laid and  ripped into.  Was hoping the frays and uneven edges will create a sense of depth and movement.    Did remember to record the beach/surf!

And the sky happened. All as one piece of metallic sheer  with an offcut  underneath to ease the bland flatness. The front bit off cliff was the last piece to do – purple orange organza over the dark areas and a fine metallic green yellow as a wrinkly top dressing.  I ripped the green and stitched areas open  to reveal the purple to give shading.

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bit of top stitching and…..

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This felt like a rough and ready process. The stitching isn’t beautiful, even, or using exotic thread. The fabrics are recycled clothing, donations or synthetic, but it does seem to work. Where I had started doing more controlled stitch I have removed it. It drew attention to itself, too self conscious too fit in with the wrinkles and tears. The whole is very sketchy, but it has so much more life than the original. Perhaps the years of painting were just a way of getting over the need for technical perfection. The  patterned fabrics give so much into the mix. The way the patterns fall is  at best a happy compromise, it really makes me respond, to orchestrate rather than dictate what is happening. And as for colour theory – in practice it is best guess.Cornish Cliffs close ups

So what are the essentials for free hand machine work?  an obliging machine who doesn’t know any better, an appropriate foot that lets you see what you are doing, a seam ripper that doesn’t hide, and really sharp scissors. Only trouble is I now appear to have more scrap fabric than before!

Come and see my work , may be even see some others as well, April 22,23 & 29,30. Click on pic for link to the website.

YOS 2017 Logo bleed_CMYKLarge

Inspector’s coat

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Focus this week has been words and dress again. Thinking and presenting is happening on the landscape side as well as workshops, but that is creative background noise. In the foreground is a mini short frock coat and waistcoat.

I was reading around the early  Factory Acts but found the texts dry and eye watering in just about every respect, so went back to writing on clothing.

 

 

The combining of primary sources with items of dress seems right. Both seem to become more, that little bit of context adds a bit life to the understanding of both. I like the idea of using simple fabric, of ‘ghosting’ the garments rather than finishing them. This isn’t about making replicas or fancy dress. That they are only part there, that what is seen and read is incomplete and only part of the whole narrative feels appropriate.  This of course leads to many mini crises, how much HAS to be done, how much is choice, how much can be undone?

I have hand sewn these, there is no seam or hem finishing or linings, but why not? I could print these documents onto fabric and cut the garments out of that and make them up like good little article of clothing. Why not machine sew?  The text is machined…. and does it matter that the words can be very hard to read? Nope, try reading any hand written document!P1060491

Some of the reasoning I think I understand, it is a touch Romanticism, a touch pragmatic, and very contradictory, of course. I want to take time, to have to sit and think, I want to share not preach or shout, I want it to be as unfinished as I am, and as the original people were in these documents. I have seen a tiny part of them, their world continued without me.  I don’t want this to be subtext driven or a historical crusade.

 

 

In part, this is trying to get below the headlines only approach, behind the obsession with dates and facts which was  my own education. I like history but not museums, nor increasingly, history books, so this is my response. This is personal, it is not meant to be deeply meaningful or massively insightful.

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Glad I have that out of my head, it can live on ‘paper’ and not clutter me up. In celebration I have just wandered up to the local shop for treats, and managed to do that with one leg of my jeans peppered with needles and pins…..not much changes.

 

 

Glum Sunday and rust.

I got rained on. Most impolite.

On the other hand had quite a productive week,  a bit bitty but things are moving forward.

p1060459 Completed 2 small painted and stitched pattern landscapes.p1060458

Still haven’t decided whether I like them or not.

Are they a little pretty?p1060470

Found a transcript from the 1832 inquiry into  factory  conditions  so am constructing a mini waistcoat with this embroidered on. Uncertain about how far to go – the garment is a part not the whole of the idea – so how proper dressmakey do I get?

Inclination says NEVER!

 

Also set up a piece of rust staining, which is close to my idea of ideal hard work.

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As a way of making unpredictable patterns on backgrounds I love it -some days a flat plain piece of fabric is a horrible thing.  For those unfamiliar with it rust ‘dyeing’ is very simple.- prewash the fabric, wrap it around anything that will rust – dunk and leave. Then rinse and fix in a salt solution.

Mine was wrapped in a wire cage I made when I wanted to hang pebbles on the wall(!). It was abandoned on the backdoor step for 3 days (see what I mean about the hard work?),  rinsed out this morning  and left soaking in a salt bath.

Have several options for how to use it but will decide when it is dry, and then change my mind,       probably.

May try staining the  waistcoat?  Ummmmm.

 

 

At Last!!!!

p1060412Inspiration Has Struck!

I stripped an old painting from its stretcher ages ago and stored it on the wall for lack of anything else to do with it..

Favourite Indian silk  skirt was no longer viable as a garment – the fabric was so thin it was unkind to take it out in public. So that had been stripped out and also hung on the other wall.

Ohhh, I wonder if……, what would happen when……. So, shut up and did it. Not really such an impossible mix – the painting was of Wharfedale  which had a long history of cotton and silk manufacturing,  even though most of the mills are demolished now, marrying the two  feels right.

p1060411There are no second chances stitching  on a painted canvas – those holes are permanent, get too many and they act as perforations and the whole thing  comes apart ( quite fun finding the point when then that happens). It also has the handling characteristics of adolescent cardboard. You bend it by thumping and never fold it completely. I feel I may now have biceps.

 

It is one way of clearing  the whole table ( cup of coffee, open box  of 500 business cards,  any passing small furry animals…..)

 

Process. Short version.

Layering  sheer and fine fabrics, stitching down, and then cutting away and shredding.

Process.  Long version.

p1060420The sky has non woven fibrous dark layer, stitched in horizontal bands to hold it and the areas of colour in the painting were sewn around. I am still working out how much to pull away, but I like the irregular mottled pattern that is emerging.

The patterned silk covered most of the middle ground with rather large blowsy red roses. Its  background matches the light on the hills  so somehow the roses work? Infallible logic!  The dark sky layer extended down across this. The stitching followed the rose pattern then areas were ripped or cut away, either the dark or both.  Some areas were just thinned out, tweezering  individual threads away to leave suggestions of colour and shapes .p1060417

 

The secondary patch of pattern is bright orange paisley ( ouch, but why not?) The  colour contrast was a bit much so out with the 2 tone organza as overlays. And the hideous ones – crimson/green,  purple/ orange…. This time stitching followed the paint shapes and colour shifts. Snip, snip, rip, and…. didn’t like it.  Lost the coherent structure, the story was compromised.   Back to the drawing and reinstate the idea of linear perspective with the tapering lines.  This is  randomly couched knitting ribbon with a wriggly approach to life,and of course, could use no pins. Quite a good game playing chase the  yarn  across the piece of work just spent far too many  hours on, but the end result is  fluid enough without looking staged.  Now I quite like it.p1060416

“Oh, how traditionally English…”

umm…     Asian  fabric with patterns of a  probably Chinese flower  and Indian symbols placed over a brutal post Industrial landscape….. ummm   romantic view of Englishness.

Like the colour shifts  due to light and viewing angle. Some of the stitching is fairly crude where I was fighting with  physically get the thing through the machine. The canvas has creased – normally this is ‘damage’ and devalues – I see it as a record of its history and as  such far more  relevant to the subject matter than happy perfection.

bsgfExhibition is still on – until the 15th March. I am there next Sunday doing a demo and trying to talk sense. (should be worth watching – but you must promise not to point and laugh)