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Middleton Wolds

 

The Wolds.

Chalk upland. Mix of arable and pasture, characterised by steep, dry valleys, scattered with small, isolated villages.

Never told me about the nosey cows.  The wind.  Wild flowers and small, high speed, unidentified squeaky things.

What was a little walk became 8 miles and took forever! Loved it.

I have been struggling with a piece over the last few weeks  based on this landscape, still trying to redefine how I work and use colour  for these very different hills.

Trouble is I have got so used to the Moors and Dales, the sparse often gnarly hills, the subdued colour, the spaces.  I saw these hills in bright flat sunshine, there was no depth in the shadows,  I was half way up one side of a tight dry valley, couldn’t see the bottom and even the tops were rolling away from me.  I sat for ages just soaking it up until I stopped looking analytically and just absorbed. It became patterns,  the linear qualities dissolved. The movement of the wind through the barley on the hill tops became more important than the shape of the trees. It waved and rippled and then broke into squares and diamonds and back again.  The light was so unforgiving that the barley shone as brightly as the sky and the whole sparkled with reflected colour.

In this piece I set up a flat perspective, tried creating definition and depth with blocks of fabric before stitching. The grand stitching plan was little  down to lots, again trying to push the tops away and bring out the foreground with denser stitch patterns . And again with the colour – lighter and subtle  down to brighter,  mixed and contrasting. Having made friends with purple, now it may be time to work on orange.

It all made sense but it was the result was flat and as unexciting as an elderly Jaffa cake ( found some in the cupboard – very disappointing). Too safe and too considered, where was the personal narrative, the fun, the unexpected elements?

Since finishing (1st time) the piece has been attacked with the demon tweezers, the horizon has been broken up, sections of land turned into sky and the land pattern quilted up into the sky  trying to blur that boundary.  The diagonal of the path up the face of the hill was too strong,  a lot of fabric has been pulled out  and re coloured to soften that. The trees are upside down, colour stitched onto roughly dyed green fabric, spot the orange. Rather than tone the stitch patterns show the differences in the hedgerow. The darkest tone was a deep blue/green put on the second bank of trees and worked as a single colour.   The foreground is stitched vertically with small inclusions to break it up.middleton wolds nearly done

Since finishing (2nd time)  This has been festering, on the wall, under the table, at work, in a bag. Working in perspective lines would have been so easy, but so predictable, so safe.  So…. demon tweezers – the rematch,  soften the horizon even more. Draw the attention away – bright yellow stalks crossing foreground/middle ground boundary, contrast detail colour shouting  about that same boundary – red on green was the loudest option.  P1170439

Has it worked? Does the  piece have more life? Does the simplistic composition give rather than take? Has the colour and pattern compensated  for the narrower tonal range? Do I want to make the trees to the right more distinct- or is that old thinking?

middleton wolds machine embroidery

And this is now finish 3. This has been difficult, but happier now. Not entirely convinced still…..   time to move on.

Okay may be give it a day before the really official declaration of Finishedness.

Don’t forget – Summer Salon exhibition in Knaresborough from next weekend and there opportunities still available this month to come and join a Stitchy Day  workshop.

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.

Sketching for stitching

This isn’t about making pretty pics but about reducing the landscape into a manageable form and language ready to take to the sewing machine. I work in pen for these- it gives an even line, more like a sewn line than pencil does.

And just for fun I’ll put the process in reverse.

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Spot the differences. OK some are sloppy draughtsmanship, but others are intentional modifications.  The foreground hedge is sharper to give more umph to the composition,  the spaces between the horizontal hedges are greater – I’ve given the Vale of York a new hill!  but I want these hedges to be seen separately so something had to give. The heavy dark of the foreground  is reduced – it shifts focus to the middle ground. The foreground shadows are omitted as clutter but some may make come back as colour. Some areas I don’t like (trees to the left) so they will be edited further when stitching. Doing the sketch highlights problem areas, lets me work out, or at least work towards, solutions. Beats taking photos.

Five minutes earlier –

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All the main areas are there but the image is unbalanced. The background is more solid and clearer than it should be, where the hatching is lighter, has fewer directional changes, it is more successful.  Will add lines last to give definition and emphasis where needed.

 

 

 

5 minutes before

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Established the middle ground. Using smaller marks to help sense of distance – just the major lines at the present, no outlines (they would  fix the shapes too soon) Mixing areas of diagonal hatching with the vertical to create shadings of tone and texture.

 

 

After the first 5 minutes.

P1060713I like strong bone structure  for my landscapes – single point perspectives,  bold masses and spaces  contrasting with lines.  Tiny detail will get lost in stitch, so I don’t bother. Let areas fade in and out, it isn’t a tracing.  The mark making is important, it is experimenting with creating the different textures and tone. Most are variations of cross hatching, tight, scribbly short blocks  on the tree in the foreground, looser and smoother in the middle distance or directional hatching, such as the vertical lines starting to describe the front face of the hedge.  These first layers set the  shape and form of the image so I  leave them incomplete. As the image builds more density and definition can be added. This is how the sewing will start, working onto a very loose frame and working lightly until the whole is established and then getting more intensive. I have already  filtered out fussy bits or annoying things. I don’t want the image to get congested,   as the image is built I will see where to simplify.

Preparation. – Clear the head. You can not go out worrying about the washing. This can be helped by the acquisition of jelly babies or fruit pastilles. I also like to walk or cycle even a little way, I guess it is part of that separation process. Take time to stand and stare, we are not cameras, it takes a time to absorb detail, understand  relationships, to get beyond mere recognition. ‘Ooo it’s a tree’ just won’t do.  Move about, see how slight shifts in angle or eye level give different emphasis. You have control, exaggerate or edit at will.

And yes, it did take 20 minutes. Didn’t even have time to open the pastilles.

 

The textile piece will happen next week. Will be interesting to see how alike they end up. Usually the same reduction and simplification process will happen again during stitching, especially in the distance,  but the basic ideas will remain true. Wonder how many trees will magically disappear?

 

 

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.

 

 

The Gentle Art of Wet Henning.

Feel like I am standing still while spinning round and round without ever finishing anything!      State of anxiety – damp, slightly warm.

There is a whole list of part done things, none of which are at an exciting stage- just slog, fiddle, and general chaos.

Cluck.   Proposals and applications for events and exhibitions to finish and send.

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Some of the exhibition stuff- blocking front door and workroom!

 

The Big Landscape is half way done. So also half not done. So also entirely populating one corner of the workroom floor.  Cluck.

 

Cluck.  Ronald the Robe is on his way – pieces for the toile are drawn out. Needs to be cut out  and the toile made up, then the cutting table can be put away and I get some floor space back. Cluck.

Prepping work for exhibition. Always takes for ever. and takes over completely. Can’t get out of the front door and have to duck into the workroom.     Very big cluck.

Prepping for workshops on stitching , dodgy dyeing and creative sewing with kids. Samples and ideas all over the place.  CLUCK.

 

 

Cluck.

Have spoken with the gallery and I am going to take a wide range of things in,  some  may not be practical for their space  or commercial enough but they want to try.

The Hospital Words installation may only appear in part and might end up on a mannequin if they can not dangle the jacket and banners as it was at the Old Fire Station. The large hanging is over 6′ and delights in the name of The Big Beastie (supposed to be “Middlemoor, Nidderdale” but ….) and the rest are more conventional landscape pieces. These are the bigger trio, there will be some smaller bits as well!

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I find the difference between the Winter pieces and the Summer piece quite mad, it wasn’t deliberate. I had wanted to make more use of vivid colour but hadn’t realised the compositions, style and even density of stitching was so different!

This the one…. or…..maybe…..

Decisive. Focussed. Ummm.

The misty Autumn landscape is in its final throws of creation.

It has reduced in scale – the front layer is 1.2m, layers 2 & 3 are 1m long.

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This is the final choice!  The front layer is reversed to show the cream bobbin thread is showing.

 

3 layers seems to be optimum – it allows the back layer to drift in and out of view depending on the amount of backlighting- just like a foggy morning.

I don’t imagine doing any more stitching now – it is just about thinning the fabric out. The muslin pulls easily and is holding its shape well. Some of the distorting the weave are quite extreme so I have left it to hang for a couple of days to see if it drops or sags badly before getting more viscous with the rest. But this is getting closer to how it will be.

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The pulled areas are beginning to show- the vertical and horizontal ghost lines. The patterns created mirror the cross hatch stitching technique.

 

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An exposed layer 2- now it looks incomplete without a layer in front!

I am waiting for delivery of a piece of acrylic and acrylic rods to dangle it from-( it might be fun to make the panels interchangeable-  Mrs Decisive strikes again) wood looked too heavy and I would like this to be more ethereal, with the structure barely there.

 

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The distorted weave – a bit of a mess at present but must be patient. Love the hide/reveal quality.

 

Oooooh- sun came out for a moment – looking rather good- but you will just have to take my word for it!

Thinking time

 

 

Still pondering about the layered landscape on muslin. Have added more stitching but  can’t get it to be the thing I want it to be – if that makes sense.  It is with in range but the way forward is  a tad fraught, along the lines of no going back.

Spent the morning wrestling with hanging layouts. It is in a heap on the floor so I guess it did not go well.

Options  – straight parallel panels-  classic but safe

 

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3 out 5?

Parallelish panels but pulled together on a centre line – ummm but complex for the sake of it?

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Should like this but still 3/5

In a square or circle or cruciform.– looked like a demented nappy hanger, jumbled, incoherent. 1/5 or less. I like the idea of seeing this the round but……

 

Problem – too much separation between the layers and they become more opaque and lose any connection between the imagery.  The scale feels wrong. The fabric doesn’t really work at 3 layers, unless I really do go into attack mode and deconstruct it.

As you can tell I haven’t started pulling threads to thin the fabric out yet, until I decide how to hang it I don’t know how much more stitching is required. It is enough of a pain to sew on even now, it has a desire to gather or distort and when that is thwarted  it tries to  disappear down through the needle plate. At least the machine is cleaned out regularly .

Solution – Stop dithering. Have found the frame from an old stunt kite is  ideal lightweight frame material- much better than broom handle and old shower curtain pole anyway.  So must do what feels right at that moment and suffer later if need be. The stitching can always be recycled onro the big landscape piece that is still draped over the bannister rail!

Major plus is time spent on distractions – day on the coast fossiling  proto Salt Aire submission piece, even hoovered.