'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, 28 November 2010



This is what a combination of sub-zero temperatures and a leaking overflow pipe will give you – roof to ground icicles.

I suppose it is a good thing really, as the water had obviously been trickling down behind the rampant ivy and we wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise.





The weather meant it was a good day to stay in and be creative. Here’s something I knocked up on the back of an old envelope or two. These were stamps I made in my Tamsin Van Essen phase, plus a blue ink pad and some blue patterned security envelopes, in the still life sketchbook. Love those envelopes – wonder how well they take stitch?


And while I was at it – grey security envelopes in the landscape sketchbook – sorry about the camera flare.



I was about to write ‘definitely better than paperwork’ - when it dawned on me that it is paperwork…

Saturday, 27 November 2010

I didn’t start this course to do paperwork…

but I should have realised that it would involve some.

I have spent most of the afternoon:

  1. ‘writing’ an essay plan for the personal research study and
  2. researching artists for the contextualisation [if there is such a word] of the 3D samples.

‘Writing’ is in quotes because, being me, I made a mind map. You should practice what you preach – I used to teach students how to use mindmaps for essay planning – so I’m quite pleased to find that it works! Well, I think it does, as obviously I haven’t written the essay yet – but I have a clear idea of what I'm going to write.

Also, being me, I did the mindmap on the computer, not by hand. I spent ages tweaking it and adding images, so the result looks prettier, but it would have been much quicker to do with a pencil and paper.

When I was working I used to use Inspiration, and very good it was, but I can’t afford to buy my own copy, so I've fossicked around on the web and at the moment I’m trying VUE. So far, so steepish learning curve, but it was designed for academic use, and it does what I want it to do, unlike some of the other freebies I’ve tried. [The map on the website does it no justice – yes, you can make maps like that if you want to, but you can make comprehensible ones as well…]

Essay plan

At least, I think mine is comprehensible, but I know there are people who would swim the channel rather than try to make sense of one -  – as we have to hand the essay plan in, I just hope the tutors aren’t in that group.

My only problem was that we also have to do a presentation on our chosen artist, and part way through, I realised I was planning the presentation, not the essay. It was far too anecdotal. I think I’ve sorted that but I’ll have another look in the morning. Of course the presentation means wrestling with PowerPoint – the thing I spent years at work avoiding learning about …

Researching artists was more fun, but my eyes are tired from peering at this screen and I’ve used masses of ink printing out lots of images. I did make some exciting discoveries though, like Naomi Grossman, who does wonderful things with wire. I especially like the way she includes words in her figures.

Other new names to me [though perhaps they shouldn’t be] are Jan Miller [lots of little treasures added to embroidery] and Catherine Slater [interesting felt, especially the figures].

The research was more pleasurable than writing essay plans but tomorrow I hope to do something a bit more creative!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Slaving over a hot computer.

We are coming to the end of module 6, which is preparation for Module 7, the real 3D piece. [Yes. all that messing around was preparatory work.]

So I had a look at the assessment criteria for Module 6.


‘Show evidence of contemporary contextualisation appropriate to the project.’

‘Demonstrate the ability to evaluate this project.’

[Pause while i rescue the world’s dimmest and clumsiest cat, Quality Control, who just fell off the printer. And judging by the way she’s looking at me, it was my fault. For some reason she likes to sleep on the printer, and she has trodden on the switches so often that now she’s the only person pusson who can turn it on or off.]

But I digress. I decided I’d better find some contemporaries in order to contextualise. [Evaluation can come later.]

I need to identify people whose work bears some relationship to  what I’ve been doing, but not the pimageeople we talked about in class, because that would be too obvious.

Well, you know what it is like on the internet. You Google one person [in this case Jean Draper, because I love her work, some of which inspired the bottom bit of this]. One thing leads to another and several hours later you have a list of names, but the ones you think are most interesting are the hardest to find out anything about, and  And you end up with lots of names for the approaches you are most interested in, but not many for others.



So I’ve ended up with several people who include tiny, constructed or found objects in their work [Penny Burnfield, Gwen Hedley], but I am finding it more difficult to find someone who makes stuffies, [not necessarily like Rambo!], whose work I like, [i.e. definitely not twee]  and who we didn’t discuss in class.




For this Wednesday’s work there is really only one person to use to contextualise – unless you know anyone else who works in corrugated cardboard?

Of course, Jackie Langfeld’s work is much more impressive than my efforts, though to be fair to myself we were working to a brief which did not inspire anyone's best work – to make an environment using only torn card and staples. to hold the little stone we’d been given.

We all ended up much more attached to our stones than we were to the creations.

It was fun, but I don’t think I'll be taking it any further…

Monday, 22 November 2010

Festina lente

Or how not to tackle your homework, in 20 easy stages.IMG_3513

  1. Try coral stitch on the hillside.
  2. Decide coral stitch doesn’t work and unpick it.
  3. Decide the hand-dyed habotai silk [HDHS – or HADES as Livewriter’s spell check would have it] you used for the hillside is now a mess because of all the unpicking.
  4. Remove viaduct and hillside.
  5. Look for more HDHS and find the turquoise dupion silk you had originally intended to use for the hillside but couldn’t find at the time.
  6. Swither about which to use.
  7. Decide on dupion.
  8. Replace habotai with dupion. 
  9. Find some turquoise embroidery floss in your stash, and add the blue-violet you bought specially for the HDHS to the stash that you are trying to reduce.
  10. Try horizontal bands of running stitch in a sort of Morse code pattern [dot-dash–dot-dot-dot dash etc.] and decide you like it.
  11. Try it on the hillside but on the diagonal and decide you don’t like it.
  12. Put it all on one side and go off to finish your sari silk bowl [SSB] – which is not homework.
  13. Decide that because you decided to restrict the colour scheme on the SSB you will need more SS and make emergency trip to the Hillier Gardens.
  14. Find it difficult to find another hank in the colours you need but buy the closest – and another hank because it’s pretty – at considerable expense.
  15. Have tea and cake at Hillier Gardens – at rather less expense.image
  16. Come home, work on bowl and decide that you would have had enough from the original hank.
  17. Finish bowl, with the addition of a junk CD
  18. Go on line and discover that you can get sari silk a lot cheaper – but obviously you don’t get to choose your hank.
  19. Drink glass of white wine too quickly.
  20. Return to viaduct embroidery – maybe…

Saturday, 20 November 2010

You may have wondered…

what I was going to do with the hank of sari silk [although some of it feels like sari polyester] I bought earlier in the week.

You and me both.IMG_3501

However, today it told me it wanted to be a Lois Walpole bowl,  in these muted colours, so I had to go through the hank removing the brighter ones.

I have another piece of this corrugated card, so I hope there will be enough of the other colours to make a second bowl.

IMG_3504I also did a proper landscape drawing [sort of], on some paper which had been washed with inks. I picked out some of the foliagey shapes with Inktenses, and deepened some of the colours in the ‘water’ and ‘grass’. I’m quite pleased with it, and may have another go.

This was all this afternoon – in the morning we went to a small exhibition by students from Winchester School of Art, in the Theatre Royal. I was particularly impressed by Amy Madron’s projected images and Melanie Evans’ layered sheers with screen printing [?] and a tiny amount of stitch. Worth visiting if you are passing, although it finishes on Monday so you’ll have to hurry.

You will probably have guessed that I’m avoiding talking about the landscape I started on Wednesday. I spent an hour or so last night, while listening to a rerun Rebus [don’t get me started on what a waste of Ken Stott/Ian Rankin that series is] putting running stitches in the hills, and half an hour this afternoon taking them out again. Too heavy [I’ll have to go down to a single thread of floss or hand stitch with machine embroidery thread] and I need to think very carefully about stitch direction.

While I was unpicking I pondered on why I don’t want to machine embroider it, although everyone who's commented on it obviously thinks I’m mad not to. Partly it’s because I’m not a very competent or confident machine embroiderer – and yes, I know I'd get better if I practiced, but I don’t particularly want to. Embroidery for me is a slow, contemplative process - and machining isn’t. I also find machine stitch quite restrictive – basically all you can produce is a line. It may wiggle, it may have blobs, it may have loops of the bobbin thread showing – but it is still a line. And usually an unbroken line is not what I want – although in this case it might be...

I did take a good look at the piece and to try to decide how I might machine embroider it – and it didn’t actually solve the problem of the orientation of the stitching. It would just be quicker to sew and  slower to unpick.

So sorry machine embroiderers –  I admire what you do, but I don’t want to do it myself.

Just like half-marathon running – ‘Go Mrs Cheese Minor’ who will be hitting the streets of Gosport/Lee on the Solent tomorrow while the rest of the family cheer her on.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Not much to show

for a day with no outside commitments. apart from going shopping, which always seems to take much longer than it ought.IMG_3499

I did manage to put the viaduct into an embroidery frame. [Not only am I odd enough to prefer hand stitch, I like to do it in a good big frame.]

I had another look at my threads in daylight and changed half of them. Still haven’t got a perfect blue but I'm going to try what I’ve got for now and get something different if I have to – I’m trying to reduce my stash after all.IMG_3494

This afternoon we went out to the Hillier Gardens, both for a walk between the showers,  and to visit their current exhibition, ‘A Material World’. We saw some interesting stuff.



I resisted the temptation to buy some of the wonderful hand-dyed/hand spun knitting yarn or the bags of roving, but I did fall for some recycled sari silk [stash reduction? maybe not…] and a felt brooch for my new coat.

Trouble is I now need a red scarf to go with it, as i think it might clash with the cerise one I’ve been wearing. Of course I will knit it myself but I don’t think I’ve got any suitable wool…

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Here’s one for the railway buffs…

if there are any out there.

This week’s topic in Drawing Studies was ‘Landscape’ – we were asked to bring an image of a landscape which was important to us and make sketches from it, preparatory to producing a stitched piece. ‘Sketches’ could include computer images – so I pottered around with Picasa and GIMP and some of my photographs.


I quite liked this one,






and these,





but in the end I went for this one – the version middle right. [How long have I been using Picasa without realising that you can move the pictures around in ‘Picture Pile’?]

The original is top left,  and for those who aren’t married to men with an [always denied] interest in railways, it is the Ribblehead viaduct on the Settle – Carlisle line. I don’t think it is ‘important’ to me, I just liked the mucked-about image, and the one thing I didn’t want to do was a conventional landscape.


I took some painted papers to college with me and made a torn paper mock up. The squiggly lines were an attempt to represent the texture/stitch – it looked better without.

Then I made several attempts to do the same thing in fabric, brought it all home and started again.


This is where it is at the moment. It has some machine stitch holding the viaduct down as well as machine tacking. But I didn’t get round to selecting threads before it got dark, so I have a selection of red, yellow and blue embroidery floss waiting to be matched in daylight – although the dark blue is going to be problematic as it is almost violet and I don’t have anything like it. [I’m using floss because I want to use finer thread in the background, getting heavier as it moves forward.]

I also have to decide on stitch – I was going to use free cross stitch/herringbone, but I'm veering towards running stitch [again], or possibly fly. Anyone got any bright ideas?

Monday, 15 November 2010

It was just one of those days…

when you keep being interrupted.

The door bell kept ringing – delivery men, meter readers, that sort of thing.

One of the deliveries was a slow cooker – yes, another slow cooker. Not sure whether it was the first one or a third one as, as instructed by Amazon, I refused it. So it is, presumably, on its way back to Scotland.

IMG_3462 Another delivery contained this.








Well, when a girl’s got one of these, and it’s nearly Christmas, how could her granny resist?







In between all this excitement, granny played with paper and paint. And wire.




I’ve been looking through some old sketchbooks, and came to the conclusion that they are much more interesting than the current ones. The recent ones have a lot of other people’s work but not much of my own.

So I splashed some paint on some pages to make them more interesting, and cut upIMG_3461 some paper, as I’d rather do that than draw.

This is in the figure drawing sketchbook. I cheated by tracing some fashion shots from a magazine. The paper is one of the sun prints I did in the summer. I think maybe it needs a bit of drawing [aaagh] added.





This was sun printed, and overprinted paper – for the still life sketchbook.






And then I got the urge to fold trees for the landscape book – although we haven’t ‘done’ landscape yet. I started with the backs of old envelopes and then moved on to a failed collagraph. [To tell the truth, I started with some pages from a John Lewis catalogue, but didn’t like the result.]

Perhaps not a conventional landscape, but the one thing I’ve learned over the last year is that our drawings are not expected to be conventional.

So I suppose I’ve done quite a lot, in between the usual chores, and answering the doorbell again and again and again …

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Just hanging around.


Rambo the dodo phoenix, that is. Despite me making him a fiery nest – or perhaps because I did – he said he wanted to be hung up so everyone could laugh at admire his feet.







And his bling. I wasn’t able to get a good photo, but he has ELC confetti paint on his crest and tail, as well as the necklaces.

More like Mr T. than Rambo, perhaps.IMG_3451

On a more serious topic – we enjoyed the birthday party yesterday. The hostess was very welcoming and had laid on a very good spread for us all – although she was a bit too busy to see us off. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Parcels all round


Someone very important has a birthday tomorrow.

This is just what she is getting from granny and grangrad. [Yes, there are a lot of thin flat rectangular parcels – her granny thinks you can never have too many books.]

Granny also got a parcel today – a bit heavier but much less exciting. Yes – the slow cooker has arrived!

Although I’ve been frustrated by Amazon’s ‘Express’ Delivery, their customer service has been prompt and efficient – after I emailed quite late on Wednesday to say the cooker still hadn’t arrived, I got a very quick reply to say another one was on it’s way, expected delivery date 12th November.

So getting it on the 11th was a bit of a surprise. [It is the second one, not the first, I checked the despatch date on the parcel.] The Logistics Manager in the family reckons the first one probably ‘fell off the back of a lorry’, if you know what I mean.

Ironically, if I read the labelling on the packaging correctly, it was imported through Southampton before being sent to Scotland and then back to Hampshire. I should have gone down to the docks and demanded they opened a container – or maybe not …

Nothing to show from college yesterday as it was a lecture + ‘work on your 3D pieces while everyone else has tutorials’. Of course muggins, who had nothing in a suitable state to take to work on, drew the short straw and got the penultimate tutorial spot.

My knitting grew quite considerably.

However, when I eventually got to be tutored, nice things were said about my choice of research topic [Susie MacMurray] my research proposal, and the selection of 3D bits I’d taken in to be inspected. I am now officially allowed to go on make very peculiar bits of nothing out of very peculiar materials. You have been warned…


Speaking of peculiar 3D things, Rambo the dodo phoenix is nearly finished. He needs some eyes and, I think, a little jewellery. And then he needs attaching to the nest/flames on which he is sitting as he has a tendency to fall over.

I don’t like stuffies, but I like Rambo – I suppose it’s different when it’s your own child! [And his feet do remind me of the Logistics Manager …]

Monday, 8 November 2010

We had a great night last night.

Wensleydale and I don’t go out much at night – we tend to turn into pumpkins after midnight, and grouchy pumpkins at that. but we do make exceptions – going to the Watermill with Mr and Mrs Cheddar, for instance. Another exception we make when we get the chance is an outing to see one of our favourite singers – Mr Tom Paxton.

So we pottered down to Poole to gathwr with a lot of other aging Guardian readers for a night of singing and laughing, with a little political comment thrown in, and still got home well before pumpkin time.

There were CDs for sale at the concert but not wanting to join the rugby scrum around the table, we decided to buy on line. As we already have one or twoseveral – lots of Paxton CDs, we chose to get a couple by his accompanist, Robin Bullock. They had cost £15 at the concert, so I was a little surprised to find that on Amazon the two we wanted were over twice that price!

In the end we ordered them from Bullock's own website - $15 each plus $5 postage.

So if you fancy some beautiful gentle guitar playing – go to the source!

This just added to my general disgruntlement with Amazon. You may remember that we’d waited in all Saturday for an ‘Express’ delivery which never arrived. I emailed Amazon and got a [in my opinion] rather over the top apology, a promise that I would get the delivery fee refunded, and a revised delivery date of today.

Well – I’ve got my delivery fee back – but do I have my slow cooker? No. [Perhaps someone is taking the name too literally.]

So we have jiggled the Babybel arrangements to make sure we can be in tomorrow. This is clearly a stopping train on a branch line, not an express.

Will I be using Amazon's express service again? What do you think?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Give me a few sunny days …

and I get creative again. even if Wensleydale did most of the work in the first instance.IMG_3374

A week late [it’s a Cheese tradition to make Christmas cake in half-term week] but our now traditional recipe produced this.




image Something else turned brown – but then went silver.

Thanks to Gill for her inspired suggestion that he is a dodo – but I think he may turn into a phoenix, [some symbolism there, perhaps?] with the addition of some gold and copper paint and possibly a few flames. [This layering of metallic paints over a dark base is something I got from Terrie the tutor – it looks great when she does it. Hmm – we shall see.]image

I also finished these. Yes, they are pictures of Thomas characters in bottle caps. It’s a matching game for a certain Thomas-mad toddler, from whom we had an unexpected visit this afternoon.

The idea of using bottle caps came from a blog – I apologise for not being able to remember whose. The idea of using packaging from Thomas fromage frais came from me.

Wensleydale has suggested using milk bottle caps as they are a bit less fiddly [not the foil kind, the coloured plastic ones from supermarket milk!]

Yesterday I went a bit mad – well, even madder than usual. In one of my books full of interesting ideas I’ve nicked found there was a picture of a cone with sticks round it. image

Which led to me spending Friday afternoon making miles of cord from ripped up fabric, and Friday evening weaving and reweaving said cord round some left over giant spillikins. Not much like the original [good!] but I like it.

Babybel inspected it very carefully and decided it was a tower. 

It isn’t quite finished – I want to add a few more rounds of the shinier cord round the top.


And finally, this afternoon, I got round to doing something I started when the weather was bad and I was quite down. [If all else fails, make a book.] But then the sun appeared and it all got put to one side.

However, I was inspired by a small sketchbook Terrie the tutor had, with her ideas for soft sculpture, and that encouraged me to get back to this one – made, as usual, from recycled packaging. The binding is from Keith Smith’s ‘One, Two and Three Section Sewings’: I like the way the variegated thread makes the crosses change colour, although I made a mess of counting the holes.

The only downside to today has been waiting in all day for an order from Amazon – we paid for next day delivery and didn’t get it. Which means contacting Amazon to demand my £9 back, and waiting in all day again on Monday in the hope that Citylink might actually deliver it …

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cor, luv a duck!


Except it’s a chicken. Or maybe a peacock.

This was the result of my college class yesterday. We had to take a line for a walk on a piece of A3, then select part of it for the outline of a stuffie.

The emphasis was very much on making a figure – but me, I had to be different. The shape I saw was an elegant swan.


Stop laughing, he’ll look better when his seams are trimmed. [Of course if he’s a chicken he’s not a he – perhaps he is Rambo the ginormous cockerel from Manor Farm?]

S/he will get bigger feet, a coat of paint or several, and an eye or two.

Stuffies are not my favourite thing – I went through a period of making cloth dolls [which will become Babybel’s very soon] but that got it out of my system – and my experience with Rambo has not encouraged me to resume!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Just a quickie

A bit of Lois Walpole inspired creativity.image Newspaper, wire and Crafty Notions paint sprays. I think it could be done in fabric and one day I hope to have enough energy to try.

Meanwhile we are recovering from 1.5 days of Babybel – an over-nighter due to training courses and tube strikes.

She was fine till her dad phoned! The tears were assuaged by readings from the original Thomas the Tank Engine books, courtesy of her Granddad, and ‘We’re All Going on a Bear Hunt’, courtesy of me. I can’t quite do the latter in the dark, which I used to be able to do with ‘Where the Wild things Are’, but expect to know it off by heart very soon.

College tomorrow, so I shall probably be completely knackered by Thursday.