'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Week 6.

First, apologies if you tried to read the blog last week, and got spam - and thanks to Sandy for alerting me. I had to delete most of my widgets to get rid of it - hopefully it hasn't come back.

I am still plodding on with the seminar/essay preparation. The goalposts were moved on Wednesday - we now only have to provide a 300 word sample, and as I have already written more than that, that is the easy bit. What I am really stressing about is the PowerPoint. When I try to run the slide show on Big Mac, the program crashes. Every time. So I have no idea how it looks. And suddenly the contents of half the slides disappeared, for no apparent reason. I had already e-mailed a copy to myself and that seems to be OK, but I won't know until I get into Uni on Tuesday whether it will work or whether I will have to start all over again.

Add to that, since I downloaded Yosemite, Word for Mac makes spelling corrections in French. And I can't log on to the Uni website from Big Mac ( though I can from the hi-pad, go figure). You may guess that it hasn't been a very good week, technologically speaking.

The rest of the week has been knitting, stressing about the seminar, working on stuff for our Manor Farm exhibition,  stressing about the seminar, going to a rather good exhibition at Southampton Art Gallery,  stressing about the seminar, grandparenting, and a bit  of stressing  about the seminar. You get the picture.

However, knititng is very therapeutic, and I have completed a demi-tree. Demi, because it is only about 5 feet long. I thought the yarn was wool, but when I washed it, it didn't shrink. However in its unshrunken state, it fitted over an old carpet tube we happened to have lying around, and it looks OK. Maybe this idea is going to work out after all! 

Just think, by the time I write the next post, it will all be over.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

I didn't mean to disappear...

but week 4 was very busy, and week 5 �� has been no better.

I am beginning to realise that this course manages to combine being 'very flexi', as one member of staff said to me, with being very structured. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be stressful! For example, this semester we have to write an essay - in my case on 'outsider art '. Essay writing , for me, is not usually a problem, but, as preparation for the essay, we have to contribute to a seminar. I can see all sorts of good academic and pragmatic reasons for this, but, although I can talk for Britain, it has become a problem.  

Powerpoint of the essay plan? The plan is no problem, I've already making a mindmap, but I've only ever done one PowerPoint presentation, and that was years ago. 

Hand in an estimate of the number of words in my introduction, conclusion, etc? Haven't a clue, until I've written the essay. 

Hand in a 1000 word section from the 3500 word essay? Might as well write the essay! 

So that is what I'm doing. I'm writing the essay, in order to make a presentation, as preparation for writing the essay.  At least I'll get some feedback before I write the final draft! But - the essay is due at Christmas, the seminar at the end of the month. What seemed like a generous time allowance has become somewhat tight... 

I did take a day off from essay writing, and went up to Compton Verney to see the Folk Art exhibition there. Great exhibition, great venue, just wish it was about an hour nearer... However it provided lots of useful information for the essay, which was my main reason for going.

I have continued with my experimental knitting. This is a sample of 'cellular automaton' knitting, from Debbie New's book, and I think it has bark-like possibilities. It is due to meet the washing machine as soon as there is a suitable load to put it in with.


And this is the book of the fortnight. Another concertina book from painted brown paper which ended up vaguely tree-like. The cover is boring black, so I didn't show that.


 I'm typing this using IOS8’s predictive typing, and trying to get used to it. It's a bit unnerving when it guesses what I want to say several times in a row - which it just did. Even more unnerving is that it seems to have learned my common typos too...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Week Three

And I still don't feel I've really started. I think it is because the course is largely self-directed, and I'm not used to it! (Plus there have more of the appointments we had to put off over the summer - I now have new glasses and a new bank account. And there has been cycling on the TV. ��)

I have worked on some samples - at least one of these you've seen before. I gave up in the hand-knitted 4ply sample:

1. I didn't think it was realistic to knit several 3metre tubes in 4ply by hand, even in 2 years.

2. If I decide to go with fine yarns, the knitting machine makes more sense - if I can remember how to assemble and use it.

3. The samples I made with some scrappy ends of chunky yarns I found at uni are much more interesting anyway. I hope they will be even better when I've put them through the washing machine.

Does anyone know a good - and preferably cheap - source of chunky, neutral coloured coned yarns? The coarser and fuller of vegetable matter the better!

I also made a book. I've been Brushoing papers a lá Frances Pickering, and the results included some tree like forms, which I decided needed a book of their own. Which of course meant I had to paint some paper for the pages. 

Not many in there yet, but there has been some �� going on.

And I have been working on my essay - making notes, producing an essay plan, and planning on going to a relevant (?) exhibition. ��

Of the outstanding tasks from BU (before uni) the shawl is finished, blocked and drying. (It's going to be a present, so just a snippet of the very simple border I decided was within my current capabilities. I have trees to knit!

I haven't blocked a shawl in ages: the last time I had a bigger spare bed to do it on, and I didn't have arthritis, but despite that I managed. I debated blocking it on the spare room floor, but that would have necessitated getting down on the floor, getting up again - and vaccing the floor first. ��

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Is it only the second week at uni?

I think I'm beginning to settle into my new routine, although you might not think it when I show you what I've achieved! 

The books of the week are not hand-made, but instead a hand-picked selection for my essay. �� (Plus one about knitting.)

I think all of us mature new textile students were panicking about the essay, but the staff have been very helpful. The general advice we were given was:

1. to pick a topic which was relevant to our studio practice - 

this is my studio practice so far - 

2. if possible, to include works of art we'd seen in real life

3. to keep it simple.

I'd been thinking of something like 'trees in art' but decided that was possibly a little too large a subject for 3,500 words, so I'd narrowed it down to Graham Sutherland's trees - plus, after watching the excellent Mr. Graham-Dixon last week on the subject, a dash of Paul Nash. Not that I've seen many Sutherland trees, but we did potter over to Basingstoke last week to catch the Artists' Rifles exhibition there, which included several Nashes, both John and Paul - though not many trees. 

However my tutor suggested, that, as I want to explore disability issues, I consider looking at outsider art. I wasn't too keen on the idea to begin with, but when I thought about it, it grew on me. I saw some examples by Judith Scott, Ray Materson and Arthur Bispo Do Rosário, at an exhibition at Compton Verney some years ago, so that met criterion 2. They were all textile artists, which sort of met criterion 1, and the fact that they were all institutionalised but for different reasons suggested an essay structure, which helped with criterion 3. Plus there seems to be a lot about them on Google. �� 

You can tell I've downloaded IOS8, can't you? Don't worry, the novelty will wear off pretty soon... In fact, after I discovered I can no longer use my favourite editing app, iPhoto (that is the iPad iPhoto, not the Mac iPhoto which is >,^*}#]#<>*^) the novelty wore off very quickly.�� 

But I digress. This week I got into Uni for one and a half of my planned two and a half days. Wednesdays look as if they are going to be pretty busy with lectures and tutorials, which means I've got to focus for the other one and a half days on the things I can't do at home - like relearning machine knitting. I was going to have a go on Friday but starting research for the essay took over. University libraries have changed a tad since I was last in one, and I had fun exploring. ��

I have managed to finish my strange socks, and I have resisted starting another pair, as my studio practice makes excellent subtitle knitting.

I've been procrastinating about finishing the shawl, as I've been so tired that reminding myself how to add a lace edging, (which I do know how to do) has been quite beyond me. The upside of the tiredness is that I am still sleeping well, and I will tackle the shawl this evening as, apart from the excellent Mr. Graham-Dixon, there isn't much I fancy on TV.

The big piece for Visual Marks was also been on hold as I hadn't had time to heat up the soldering iron. I did that today and cut out 66 petals, before having another look at the flowers I'm using for inspiration and realising they don't have heart shaped  petals. Tough, they do now...��

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Week 1: the journey begins

It has been a busy week, what with my first two days at Uni, two days grandparenting, 1 day fitting in all the boring appointments we had had to postpone because of the disruptions to our routine over the summer, and a weekend spent trying to sort out what I need for next week.

It has, however, been a very good week for sleeping.  I am tempting fate by saying this, but  the combination of having to get up at not quite silly o'clock most days of the week, plus long drives and a certain amount of uncertainty related stress, has (temporarily?) banished insomnia.

The down side is that I've been so tired that I haven't done much creative stuff, not even at Uni. I registered, got a parking permit, went to an introductory session, a lecture and a tutorial, sorted out and cleaned up my little corner of the art block, and panicked about what I was actually going to do. The tutorial, and sitting down and going through all my scrappy little notes of ideas, has helped with that. A bit.

Having told my tutor I was going to knit trees, I decided I'd better get started on a trial one.

Five hundred grammes of wool-cotton blend I happened to have lying about, a 4mm circular needle, and 100 stitches. In 5 hours I managed 10cm. At that stage  I was planning on 2 metre trees, which at that rate would take me 100 hours. Since then Wensleydale has found an old  3 metre carpet roll in the loft, and 3 metres looks good. Er - 150 hours.

This suggests that, assuming I don't change my mind completely, I need to

1. make the trees smaller

2. machine knit them

3. use a heavier weight yarn

4. or any combination of the above.

Of course, I gave away my last knitting machine and my associated books over the summer. I asked if there was one at Uni - no - but the next day they were offered two, and as I'd asked... Serendipity or what?

Before I can really get cracking with Uni knitting, I need to finish the knitting I started before I started before, plus the embroidery for the Visual Marks exhibition. I was hoping to crack on with the VM stuff this afternoon, but the soldering iron was playing up. I eventually realised that the tip was coming unscrewed. I managed to resist the temptation to rescrew it with my fingers, but waiting for it to cool down took a large chunk out of the afternoon. (As did watching the final stage of the Tour of Britain, but we won't talk about that...) However the last major piece is more than half done - I shall be glad when it is out of the way.

I also have a pair of strange socks on the needles. Strange, because they were going to be grey and blue, until I realised I didn't have enogh grey, so they became grey, blue and variegated.

The shawl is  on hold because I don't understand the instructions for the lace edging, and I need to find some I do understand.

No book of the week this week, I'm afraid. I had a couple of ideas, but no time. The closest I got was putting a cover on the educational year diary I had to buy - I can't be doing with the electronic versions, I need to be able to turn pages and add notes. The cover was definitely too naff for an art student, so I had to cover it with a bit of left-over Cas Holmes inspired fabric. 

While I was stationery buying I went into Staples to buy some paper for a ring binder - and came out with this. Plus planner pages (I decided to by-pass my own system), two sorts of paper, dividers etc. Fortunately I already had some of the big binding rings so I could expand it. Unfortunately this was before my NUS card arrived, so I didn't get the student discount. 

I like it because it is small, if not slim, (bit like its owner), I  can move pages around, and with the dividers I can, I hope, use it for almost everything without getting confused. I could probably have found a diary insert as well, but I don't think there's room. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The excitement is building - or do I mean panic?

The highlight of the week was my visit to the Mature Students - our visit to Finkley Down on Friday, closely followed by the Mature Students' Welcome Event at Uni. Both were informative and well organised, but only one included tractors. The clincher, I'm sure you'll agree.

I have another, subject-based visit to Uni on Monday, when I hope to get a timetable, and some idea what I'm doing - although the latter may never happen.

Those were the highlights of what has been a busy if mostly uncreative week. Fortunately I've been participating in Myfanwy Hart's 'Createaday' which involves a series of short daily prompts, building up so that the results are greater than the sum of the parts. I've managed to make a book for it, and keep up with this week's prompts. That, together with a little shawl knitting and a bit of embroidery makes me feel I have achieved something.

Although part of me is panic stricken about what I've got myself into, part of me can't wait. We had fun with the little guys over the summmer, but I think we are all looking forward to settling into term time routines, despite someone not believing I'm going.

Granny: I'm going to school soon, just like you.

VHC: Noooooh!

Granny: Yes I am. It's a school for grownups called University.

VHC: Noooooh! Grownups don't go to school. School is for children.

So that settles it!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Living Dangerously.

In my extensive stash I have several rolls of something, bought from a floristry supplier who used to come to college. (She had lots of interesting things: I think she sold more to the embroiderers than she did to the florists.) 

When I bought it, I may have had some idea of what I was going to do with it, but I suspect I just liked the pretty colours. I used some when I was being repetitious last summer, and found out that you can iron it and cut it with a soldering iron: it is non-woven and holey, and from its texture, I suspect it of being lightweight Lutradur.

In an attempt to use it up, I decided to try printing on it. Dangerous! What if it melts? I didn't mention this possibility to Wensleydale, lest he suspect me of deliberately sabotaging the $^<%#>€}<\> HP all-in-one which I hate, in order to justify buying something else. (Would I do something like that? Of course not. Well, not so soon after buying a new car...)

I remembered I had bought Marion Barnett and Dijanne Cervaal's publication on Lutradur, and went and found it, more easily than I expected. From this I learned that:

1. In order not to choke the printer it is a good idea to back the finer stuff with freezer paper, 

2. As the ink tends to come off, it is a good idea to use a pre-coat. (Fortunately I had come across the remains of a bottle of clear Inkaid the other day, while looking for something else. I also found some PrintAbility, so I thought I'd try a comparison and use up some more stash.)

3. The Spunart website suggests only printing in black - just like all those transparencies I've been doing.

To cut a rambling story short:

1. Did I wreck the printer? No.

2. Did the prints come out OK? Yes.

3. Is it Lutradur? Who knows.

4. Which was better, Inkaid or PrintAbility? Who knows: I forgot to make a note of which was which. 

5. Will I do it again? Yes, but not with the Lutradurish material, as I would prefer white to the the pretty colours I have. So I have ordered some of the real stuff from Spunart. I'm thinking tranparencies over Lutradur. Whoops, stash extension.

6. Have I managed to use up significant amounts of the Lutradurish material, Inkaid, PrintAbility, or freezer paper? No, nothing but printer ink.

What did I learn?

1. Printing on draft mode worked fine.

2. The freezer paper looks great, but unfortunately it tends to smear, even when sprayed with fixative.

3. There are differences between the two pre-coats: one lets less ink through, sticks the Lutradurish material more firmly to the freezer paper, and makes the print stiffer but shinier (more on the back than the front). More experiments needed, with careful note taking.

On other fronts:

1. There has been some knitting - the boring but good for subtitle-reading body of the shawl before I get to the exciting but needing concentration lace border.

2. There has been some embroidery - the framework of my latest Visual Marks/Manor Farm piece. (The dots are where the first flowers will go.)

3. A couple of books. I added transparencies to the recycled card book I made a while ago, and made a quick index card book for the latest Daisy Yellow challenge. They should have been ATC’s, but I found these small index cards in a drawer, so decided to use them inste

4. We have had exciting outings, to Manor Farm again, by special request, and to the  Hythe Ferry, which we have only just discovered. If you wish to entertain a transport mad small person, it cannot be beat. Narrow gauge train ride? Yes, times two. Boat trip? Yes, times two. Huge ships to look at, which are loading and unloading cars, tractors and diggers? Yes, times two. An icecream while you watch the Isle of Wight catamaran sail in and out? Yes, but only one, unfortunately. Wensleydale suggested that next time - and I'm sure there will be a next time - we can make it nearly perfect by getting the bus between the ferry terminal and Southampton. Times two.

Next week should be marginally quieter as the little guys go back to school, but I have an invitation to the Mature Students' Welcome Event at Uni. It's beginning to get scary...