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

Dorothy Rowe

Friday, 29 April 2011

Faffing about.

After college on Wednesday, and a helpful tutorial, I have a much better idea where I’m going with the current college work. One of my concerns was that we had been asked to research a topic without any guideline about the essay we would be writing using the products of our research – which is far too open-ended for me. And the more I looked at artist’s books, the more things to research I found – it was getting a bit overwhelming.

But I now have an idea of a title – sort of – which will help to focus subsequent research – sort of. ‘European artist’s books from Blake to Cheshire Cheese, with reference to the role of technology in the development of the genre.’ Or words to that effect. The Cheshire bit is because I was encouraged to make some books and discuss them in the essay. The next module is ‘personal cloths’ – though, as it turns out, cloths can be books. Or books can be cloths. Oddly, I find that idea quite scary – it means I will have to stop faffing around making samples and start making something with content!

I couldn’t get started yesterday because it was was Babybel and Gym day. Some art did takeIMG_5376 place, but little of it was mine.

Some art on paper ‘The sea, a beach, and a road’. Reminds me a bit of Alfred Wallis <g>.






And some of it not on paper. I know Picasso talked about trying to revert to painting like a child, but I doubt he ever painted his legs blue…

Fortunately I had already planned to put her in the bath after the painting.



dandelion 2

I did manage a bit of faffing around with Photoshop Elements, including some disembodied dandelions, but that was all.






So today I was going to start thinking seriously about the essay – the first draft is due in in June, so there’s not much time.

Did I?

Of course not. And not because I was watching that over-hyped wedding. [Bah! Humbug!]

First I did a bit of ironing – I do do boring things like that occasionally. Especially when I'm procrastinating.

Then I started to tidy the workroom – which led into sorting out a file to put IMG_5414all the stuff I’ve collected.

Then while I was putting stuff in the file, I thought ‘don’t file that, make it’. So I did.

A couple of volvelles, inspired by a picture of a shield. One from junk mail, one from the backs of envelopes.





More playing around with the backs of envelopes,








and the front of an envelope, with more junk mail








and another envelope and a scrap of hand made paper. It’s based on the Turkish Map fold, but I changed it by folding the base in, curving the edges, and attacking it with a star punch. I'm sure someone has added extra folds to this structure before, but I have never seen it, so I’m quite pleased with myself for ‘inventing’ it. And I love the shadows it casts.

I did eventually get round to a bit of work on the essay.

I made a mind map.

And tonight? Mmm – more faffing around with Photoshop, I think. Or possibly Sumopaint.

Procrastinate? Me?

Monday, 25 April 2011

What to do on a sunny Bank Holiday?

Make books, of course.


This one was completely unplanned. I'd seen a photo of a book with a photo of the sea on the cover, and when I came across this sea and sunset paper while looking for something else, I decided to use it as the cover of a little pamphlet stitched notebook. [It was going to be sand and sky but I put the cover on upside down.]

The paper was rather thin, so I went looking for something to back it with – and came across several pieces of sea-ish paper – I think I painted them when I was making a sea-themed hanging for C&G, but never used them.

Now it was going to be a pamphlet with sea coloured pages – but I realised that it would be better as a drum leaf binding – full spreads and no stitch.

Of course drum leaf takes a tad longer than quick and dirty pamphlet binding – but the result is much better.IMG_5360

This was an impulse too. During another insomniac night [shouldn’t complain. it’s ages since I had one] I decided I needed to start using some of my images in my books, instead of scrap paper. So this morning when I came across this on Donna's great ‘Make a Book a Day’ blog, I was inspired to make my own version.

Can you spot the deliberate mistake?

I could pretend that I intended to rearrange the picture, in order to symbolise the disruption of nature by human intervention – but I’d be lying. And I think it would have been better if I’d grunged up the card a bit. And the perfect beads had holes too small to get the perfect threads through. But aimagepart from that …

And finally – people who are working on brightly coloured embroidery on brightly coloured prints shouldn’t throw stones make critical comments about ‘any colour as long as it’s bright’, should they?

There is some embroidery on there – honest. I'm not quite sure why it’s there, or whether it actually adds anything – but it is definitely bright.

The next couple of print samples up for a bit of stitch definitely aren’t.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Too darn hot!

For me, anyway. Wensleydale told me that it is only 21C on the outdoor thermometer – that’s the one in the shade, on the north side of the house.

I think it is a tad hotter in our south-facing garden.

So, over the last two days, instead of sitting embroidering in the garden as I’d planned, I've been doing paper-work in the house. Yesterday was RP day – researching and collating images, printing them out, writing notes, putting them in the portfolio. Worthy, educational – boring.

Life got a little more interesting when we went back to the Watermill last night for the second time, this time to see ‘Comedy of Errors’. As usual, with Propeller, it was very very good. If they played Richard III as a comedy, they played Errors as a pantomime – and the music was brilliant.

I don’t think Mrs Cheddar will ever forget it. I won’t go into details, but there are drawbacks to sitting on the front row at Propeller productions. Tall, male, acting drawbacks. Twice.

Today I turned to IMG_5321more interesting paperwork.

These were inspired by a wallet, believe it or not. The paper is some hand made [not by me] from my stash, alternating front and back.






This is a little more elaborate. I haven’t made a lot of books by binding over tapes – and none by binding over roving – but it seemed like a good idea at the time. My first idea was not to make a cover, and leave the ends loose, [bottom right]but it didn’t look right, and the binding was sloppy. I decided to contain it in an adaptation of a paper cover from Sue Doggett’s ‘Hand Made Books’. [I am gulping after following that link. Needless to say, I didIMG_5319 not pay that price for it…]

In the middle of all that, I made these. Hot uncrossed buns. Well, the bread maker did some of the work.

Despite making our own bread, we usually buy hot cross buns, but we forgot this time. So inspired by Babybel and her mummy’s excellent example, I decided to have a go. Of course, I didn't have all the right ingredients, and I couldn’t be bothered to make the crosses – but they taste almost as good as Babybel and her mum’s efforts – perhaps they’ll give me a few pointers next year?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Keeping busy.

We had an extra Babybel day yesterday, as Mrs Cheddar had an outbreak of builders. We had an outbreak of BT engineers - well, one, who took his boots off at the door – is this standard BT practice? Babybel took the opportunity to show off by sliding down the back of the sofa while the poor man tried to connect us to Infinity. IMG_5248

Since she’s been going to nursery in the afternoons, we haven’t had a chance to take Babybel  out for more than dog walks, so we grabbed the chance of an afternoon outing. And on a beautiful April day – where better than Manor Farm? Babybel was delighted to renew her acquaintance with Lily Cow and Rambo the world’s Hampshire’s biggest cockerel.  I realised how much she's grown since the last time we went, because she is now taller than he is.

Today W. and I went on a grown-up outing, to the Ramster Embroidery Exhibition.


We stopped off at Puttenham Common for a picnic lunch and had the place almost to ourselves, in temperatures in the 20s, under a clear blue sky – that’s a heat haze in the photo. If we get weather as good in July I’ll be amazed.

Then on to Ramster. It’s a few years since our previous visit, when I was very impressed with what I saw. I'm afraid I can’t say the same about this year – I’m not sure whether that’s me, or the quality of what was on show, but Wensleydale felt the same.

There were some standout pieces, including Wendy Dolan's subtle quilted works based on maps, [image which doesn't do them justice here], and Susan MacArthur’s nudes, which to me are perfect demonstrations of how textiles can do things that straightforward painting can’t.

I’m glad to say that I also admired my colleague Consuelo Simpson's work before I realised whose it was!

Thinking about the pieces I liked – and the pieces I didn’t – I came to the conclusion that my preference is for pieces with a restricted palette, in which stitch plays a subtle but important role – which is, maybe, the direction my own work has been heading. [Subtle? Moi?]Too many of the pieces on view today seemed to adhere to the principle of ‘any colour as long as it’s bright’ – including  a very famous name whose use of colour I used to admire…

And although the tea and Brownies in the Tea House were good, the service was slow - so I don’t think we’ll be going back.

Monday, 18 April 2011

As I predicted…

I did get side-tracked yesterday, into making one of these. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph it before sending it on its way this morning, but it didn’t work as slickly as the one on the website, due to my inability to glue 4 small tabs at the same time. I doubt this will upset the recipient, who will probably be more interested in the accompanying chocolate.

I did get back on track in the evening – making a sample.

image You may remember me posting this, and saying I didn’t know what I was going to do with it.





I thought of something - flowers bursting out of the surface, and blanket stitched leaves.

Some of the ink on the lutradur transferred itself to the thread, which doesn't matter too much on this, but could be a problem if you wanted pristine embroidery. Despite that, I like the rather bizarre effect of a photograph coming to life. Definitely one to revisit, but using a different substrate – though I need to explore alternative methods of making raised flowers, they can’t all be woven picots…

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Where did last week go?

It seems like only yesterday I was wittering on about French flics – and it’s time to brace myself for ‘Spiral’ again.

It has been a busy week, what with long distance wanders, vet’s appointments [nothing serious, just annual jabs], and last night, a trip with Mr and Mrs Cheddar to see Propeller's ‘Richard III’.

It was brilliant as usual –although I hadn’t realised before that the play was a comedy. OK, a black comedy. OK, more of a black and red comedy. Think Immortal Bard  meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre – except it wasn’t just chainsaws.  Not for the squeamish, but highly recommended if you’ve got a taste for Grand Guignol.

Mmm – interesting – I just Googled ‘Grand Guignol’ to make sure I’d spelled it correctly, and discovered from Wikipedia that it is ‘a genre popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre’. We’d wondered whether it might have been played that way in Shakespeare’s time – looks like it could have been.

Despite all these shenanigans, there has been some progress on the RP and PMS.  My research process:

  1. Pluck a name at random from my ever-increasing list of names of book artists.
  2. Google.
  3. Select some images, arrange them on a page and print the page.
  4. Make notes on the information I’ve found [thank goodness for Wikipedia]. I have consulted some real books, you’ll be pleased to know.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 till too bored to continue.

This is the result for William Blake. One of my colleagues was told her RP was too neat – not a problem I have.


Joking apart [though probably not for long], I am finding it a much more useful process than I expected. The process of trying to define an artist’s book led to me formulating a series of questions, which I've been using to analyse the books/works I’m looking at – and that has given me lots of ideas. Which I suppose is the point of it all really.IMG_5209

For the PMS, I have taken some photographs of flowers – anyone know what this is, the knowledge I acquired at my mother’s knee has deserted me?






And of litter.  I know what this is, it’s a traffic cone in the Itchen Navigation.





Of course, when I did have some free time today – I couldn’t think what to do. So true to my resolution to be more organised – I collected all the scrappy little notes I’d made and made a list.

Number 2 on the list [number 1 is always ‘make a list’ – so I’ve always got something to cross off] was to work in the drumleaf book.

Now you may remember me wittering about how I liked this binding because there was no stitch in the middle of the page.

So what did I do?image

I added some stitch. Fringes at the top, a completely non-functional stab binding type stitch at the bottom. And in the middle is my serendipitous discovery. As you may have realised, I like to make holes in my pages – but when I tried to cut these holes i realised that because the pages are double, but only stuck together at the spine and fore edge – it is possible to cut one side and not the other.

You can either leave it like that, and get an interesting shadow effect on the other side – or you can slip a piece of contrasting paper in between. [The middle and bottom shots are two different spreads, I cut old A3 paper in half to make the book.]

Number 3 on the list was to sort out all the printouts I had lying around the work room.

And that’s when I got side-tracked.


One of the bits of paper lying around was a print out of this. I started with some origami paper, as suggested – and then some bits of old atlas fell out of the same folder – plus a scrap of hand made paper.

I decided to keep it on topic and make little books to go inside – which means I have made 4 matchbox sized books in matchbox sized boxes. For the first time in my life I appear to be making a series.

I wonder how I'll get side-tracked tomorrow?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A [long] Wednesday wander.

What with hydrotherapy appointments [his], gym sessions [me] and Babybel mornings [both of us] there isn’t much time left in the week for longer trips out, so we took advantage of college holidays to head north to Compton Verney, to see the Wallis and Nicholson exhibition.

I fell in love with Ben Nicholson’s work when I saw one of his reliefs at Southampton Art Gallery, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Alfred Wallis piece for real before – only postcard reproductions, which don’t, I now realise, do him justice.

I also knew that they knew each other, from a rather good BBC art programme earlier in the year – but I hadn’t realised just how much Nicholson was influenced by Wallis – and how good a painter Wallis was.  There is a lovely quote from Nicholson about Wallis being ‘unfettered by accuracy of description’ [my new motto!] and the exhibition shows how Nicholson strove to achieve what Wallis did naturally.

We were particularly struck by Wallis’s ability to paint the sea, especially the sea in a bad mood – and his use of a restricted palette. So many of today's amateur artists, seduced by acrylics, seem to use any colour as long as it’s bright – Wallis’s colours are muted, subtle, and often influenced by the colour of the recycled materials he was painting on. There is one image of two boats in a wintry sea, the name of which I neglected  to note. It is painted on a piece of polished board, which still shows at the top, and which seems to glow in the lighting of the gallery. In another one he used some orange coloured cardboard, which becomes the sky, and works so well with the heavy green/black of the land.

Perhaps my favourite was this one, where you can just see the edge of the card on which it is painted. I found his use of recycled cardboard, cut roughly from packaging, quite exciting in the way it broke away from the conventions of a rectangular canvas – something Nicholson explored in this piece. [Also influenced by Braque/Picasso, methinks.]

There is a supporting exhibition of sailors’ wool work pictures, – obviously linked to Wallis's work, obviously of interest to an embroiderer. The works on show, mostly 19th century, are technically skilled, in beautiful, mostly unfaded colours -  large, detailed and very impressive. I was amused that in several cases, someone [I suspect at the Naval Museum in Portsmouth] had been able to track down early 19th C service records and tell us a little bit about the men who made the pieces.

But for me, the stars of the show were 4 early 20th century pieces by John Craske, a Norfolk fisherman. Never heard of him? Me neither, but take a look at this. That is stitch – thickly packed, using the sheen of the silk and variations in direction for superb shading.

The scones in the cafe are pretty good too.

Great gallery – just wish it was about 90 minutes closer to home…

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

I’ve come to the conclusion…

that scanning is boring. [Like this post, which goes on a bit.]

Scanning is especially dull if, like me, you have to scan everything 4 times.image

I was feeling idle last night  so I played with PostworkShop – quite the easiest way I know  to produce interesting manipulated photos – on these two images.


Yes, litter photos again. I bet readers who’ve been with me a while are missing the flowers.



I applied ‘white sketch’ to the images,







then printed them on calico, previously painted with Inkaid, and collaged with the backs of envelopes. As you do.

Today I scanned them

Once as a colour image.





Once in grey scale.







Once in black and white.







And once in inverted colours. 

Boring process, interesting results.





Then I did the same for the other four pairs of images I printed off last night.

Don’t worry, I'm not going to show you all of them. Just the first scans – to prove that I do eventually  use the fabrics and papers I prepare for printing.


‘Sketchy marker’ on emulsion painted junk mail – for the flower lovers out there, the left image is of daffodils. The right one isn’t.





My own combination of filters [known as ‘plasmaxor’] on a bit of old curtain painted with clear Inkaid. The daffodils are a bit more obvious here.





‘Abstract 1’ on the left, and ‘antique drawing’ on the right, on calico painted with Printability and collaged with brown paper.




And my favourites – the ‘kitchen garden’ filter [I kid you not] on heavy but not pelmet weight Vilene, painted with moulding paste and Inkaid, a recipe from ‘Digital Art Studio’. It has a wonderful crunchy texture, which the scan doesn’t show, but which works really well with the images.

And if you decide to try it and put the result though your printer – on your own head be it.

The I did some more scanning.

When my mum died, I inherited a lot of transfers. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have binned the lot – but when did I have an ounce of sense? I am not really a transfer person – all the designs seem to involve satin stitch, probably my least favourite stitch after cross stitch [one because it’s boring, the other because I’m useless at it]. In any case, the transfers don’t work very well, probably because many of them are even older than I am.

But I have a vague idea of adding floral transfer images to some of the litter photos – and perhaps even embroidering them – so I decided to scan them.

I’d only need to scan each one once, wouldn’t I?

Wrong. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the colour image or the black and white image best. image

I managed a few before terminal boredom got to me.

This post is going on a bit , so I won’t write about our afternoon out at the Hillier Gardens.

I’ll just show you. image

Saturday, 9 April 2011

How to have a productive night.



  1. Suffer from insomnia.
  2. Er – that’s it.

Still it did result in these three – two variations on a stick binding from Nuno magazine, and one traditional stick binding – the one with the dead fish look-alike strapped to it. The covers are either needlepoint canvas, or wallpaper samples from Mrs Cheddar [how well she knows me], with a dash of white emulsion.

The two larger ones have the usual brown paper pages, the small one has pages made from scraps of handmade paper in shades of brown – apart from that white cotton wool-lookiimageng stuff, which is left over silk paper.

I think these might be good for litter photos, especially in shades of sepia, like this one.  





And that has been it for today, apart from an hour or so sitting out in the sunshine wrestling with definitions for the RP. Interestingly, the books I have consulted seem to try to avoid defining ‘artists; books’ – very wisely, since people like me come along and tear their definitions to pieces.

It was useful, though, because it made me think about what I like best about the genre – the intimacy of a work of art you can hold in your hand and interact with. That made me realise that the books I make need to be small scale, and to feel right as well as look right.

That’s all I’m likely to do today, since Saturday night is no longer Danish detective night, but French flic night – much more violent than The Killing, but equally gripping – and with a higher crumpet ratio than The Killing too.

Friday, 8 April 2011

How to have a productive day.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep, for once.
  2. Get up early at a reasonable time.
  3. Pack husband off for his hydrotherapy so you don’t keep stopping for cups of tea.
  4. Forget about chores.
  5. Get in your workroom, start something and wait for inspiration to strike.

Things not to do:

  1. Try to sew through a pin.
  2. Decide to take your sewing machine in for repair, having
  3. forgotten it is the Friday before the Easter holiday so the M3 will be very very very busy.
  4. Think about the bill.
  5. Go to your favourite Eastleigh cafe as you happen to be passing – but they do do good coffee and even better chocolate shortbread at The Point.

The results of this include:PMS6

1. A sample of Dorothy Simpson Krause’s drumleaf binding, which I last showed you looking like this.

As before, it is made from a fairly random selection of papers, but the result is very pleasing. The book has a nice heft, and looks very neat [at least for me!], and as you can see from the hand page – no stitch – so good for full page images.

Krause gives instructions for a more complex cover, but as it’s a sample I made a simple card cover, getting the wriggle room right this time. I would probably never have tried this if I hadn’t started exploring ideas for using my photos in books, but I’m very pleased I did.


After that I got distracted from the experimental stuff, as I came across a picture of a blanket stitch binding where the hole in the spine extended into the covers – like this. And this sugar box threw itself at me saying ‘me, me, me’ – so how could I resist?

The last time I tried a blanket stitch binding, I followed Alisa Golden’s instructions, but she mentions that her version was adapted from Keith Smith – so this time I went straight to the source - ‘Non-Adhesive Binding’. [Perhaps it was a reaction to all that gluing in the drum leaf binding?]

For once – I found Smith’s instructions much easier to follow than Golden's. I think part of the problem is that the ‘blanket stitch’ isn’t done the way I normally do it, but this time I got my head round that and managed to do it the bookbinding way, not the blanket binding way.

Flushed with success, when we got back from our slow trek up and down the M3,  I made three [count them – three] books in quick succession. mind you, they were a lot simpler than the ones I made in the morning.


First up, another book in a matchbox. The strip I'd cut off the cover of the drumleaf book told me it wanted to be an accordion – and I decided it could live in a matchbox. As it looked a bit like a night sky, it got some moons and stars punched in it, and a smear of confetti paint.

What I can’t show you is the very satisfying way it leaps out when you open the matchbox, like a Jack-in-the-Box.PMS8

Then I pinched an idea from Craftzine, but without the charming drawings. Or the neatness.

These matchbox and button books raise a problem, of course. I’ve managed to put most of my sample books in a sketchbook, because they have been relatively flat, and my sketchbooks tend to b.u.l.g.e, but I don’t think I can get buttons or matchboxes in. Perhaps I need a sketch box?



Speaking of bulging – for a little light relief I made some autumn leaves. The instructions were in my file, and once I'd found the origami paper, they were quick to do. There was a reason for it – apart from coming across the instructions.

I thought I might be able to add them to some of the litter pictures – leaf litter? PMS7

And finally – a very quick variation on a one sheet book. I think this needs colour on the inside, some holes, and possibly some stitch – but that will all have to wait till tomorrow…

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

An insomniac night…

and an interesting day.

For once I put the insomnia to goimageod use.

First, another variation on the accordion spine with holes in the pages – mostly made from envelopes. And interesting shadows, again.



image Second, a copy of something I saw on a website – and apologies if it was yours, because once again I’ve forgotten where I found it. A tiny Japanese bound book in a matchbox – cover and pages made from collagraphed newspaper.

Interesting that something that small needs lots more stitches to look right, than I would put in a much bigger book.

And finally – a quick alteration of one of my altered photographs, and its inspiration – a postcard I found in a second hand book, of windows in Glasgow Cathedral.IMG_4993

I got lazy and punched the holes in the top, rather than cutting them out – the black marks are my doodling. An idea which needs work, I think - perhaps printing on acetate and mounting in black card windows?

College was interesting today, because, despite having been married for nearly 40 years, and having two sons, I can safely say I have never looked so long or so intensively at a man with no clothes on.

Yes. Life drawing. And I enjoyed it. Even the last hour when I was drawing the gentleman in a pose where he was lying down on his back with his feet closest to me and his head all but hidden.

Like I said – interesting. [Never have we been so quiet. We were concentrating, of course.]

No pictures, though, IMG_5024I don’t want this blog X-rated.

I can show you some of the photos I took in the lunch break, though.







and litter. Do you think this is becoming something of a fixation?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Why is it…

that when I’m supposed to be making a 2D or 3D piece, or writing a presentation, I am very easily tempted into making a book?

But when I can legitimately make book models for the PMS – I start whinging that I don’t know what to do and I’ve got no motivation?

So I went and did a little bit of embroidery. First embroidery I’ve done for weeks!IMG_4985

Well, I did say a little bit. Twelve assorted sort-of-eyelets, to be exact, on a pair of my litter/not litter photos. The photos had previously gone through the ‘Watercolour’ filter from BeFunky, then been printed on cartridge paper collaged with brown paper, reinforced with iron-on interfacing on the back.

At first I thought the brown paper was too dark, but now I see it as menacing shadows, which seems appropriate.

Then I did make a book.


This is the ‘board book’ from Dorothy Simpson Krause’s ‘Book + Art’. If you are thinking ‘baby book’ – the structure is basically the same, but it’s paper, not cardboard.


The reason I wanted to try out this binding is to do with what you can’t see in the shot of the open page – look, no strings!

When I made the book of photos for the identity project, I found the stitching could be visually intrusive – and this binding has no stitches. Yes, much as I hate glue, this is glued together – well, double sided sticky taped together. It opens nice and flat [apart from a slight glitch with the cover, caused by me allowing too much wriggle room], and the image can cover the entire spread, only interrupted by a fold line. And as you can’t see the back, you don’t have to worry about the back side of any embroidery showing – unless, of course, like me, you like the back to show.

The page decoration is nothing special – Krause encourages you to recycle failed art work, and although I wouldn’t dignify these rubbings by calling them art, cut in half they made interesting pages.IMG_4994But – it’s ‘only a sample’.

Krause has another, related binding which she calls drum leaf. This is as far as mine has got.

Do you think I’ve got enough clamps on there? They are holding the text block together till the glue dries. Yes, glue again, despite my glue phobia.

The torn baking parchment is not part of the book, it is serving a protective function, in theory at least.

By now I had the bit between my teeth, so I pulled out my collection of images to be inspired by.

Like this.PMS3

Which led to this.

Some more recycled ‘art’ – bits of shaving cream marbled card, with holes cut in them, and a dash of webbing spray because the cover was boring.

I like this one – especially the wonderful shadows it casts. Definitely a structure to explore a bit more.

This evening, as there’s nought on telly – again – I could play with my photos in some program or another, or search the web for artists’ books – but somehow I’ve gone off the idea now I’ve got to do it.