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

Dorothy Rowe

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Our Wednesday Wander

[or a Tuesday trip a day late] was to Whitchurch Silk Mill. We have been there a couple of times before - it isn't too far away, Wensleydale is fascinated by the machinery, if you pay the gift aid rate you get free entry for a year, and it has a tea shop. The only drawback is all the beautiful silk things in the shop that I can't afford!
Here is the mill - as you can see it was a lovely day. You can just see one of the streams which run on either side and are full of ducks and the occasional trout.
There has been a watermill on the site since the 11th century, and there is till a water wheel in the wooden part of the building to the left. It is a working silk mill, although the machines are no longer driven by water power. You may never have heard of the mill but you have probably seen their fabrics in costume dramas on the telly, or reproduction fabrics in National Trust properties. Here are some samples, albeit a little faded, making an informal blind!

This time the added attraction was a small [8 items!] exhibition of 19th and 20th century ecclesiastical vestments from Salisbury Cathedral. Fascinating to see the contrast between the early examples and the most recent ones, including a blue cope by Jane Lemon and a chasuble by the Sarum group. Wensleydale asked me what the difference is between a cope and a chasuble, and I had to admit I didn't know. The exhibition is on until the end of August if you are interested.

When not wandering, I have completed Babybel's teddy book, and worked on my knot garden - which is currently looking a little odd. For non-embroiderers - those loops and ends are plush stitch which will be cut and trimmed back to make a carpet-like texture.

I have also resumed working on another triptych I started before we went away - so perhaps my uncreative spell is coming to an end. I had had my usual bout of feeling that it wasn't working and that, I think, was the cause. However looking at it again last night I decided it wasn't so bad - although today I have reservations again. Pictures later if I decide it is OK!

Tuesday 29 July 2008

We've just about recovered

from our weekend visitors. Lovely to have them - but you forget what hard work little ones are - and I didn't have to do the difficult bits, just the cuddling, playing and occasional feeding! It has just confirmed my feeling that those women of my age who ask for fertility treatment are - shall we say? - misguided.

Miss Babybel is crawling [Commando style rather than up on her hands and knees] and bottom shuffling. We moved as much as we could out of reach before she came but some things were still in range - and of course she made a beeline for those. And then made another beeline for them as soon as she was taken away, watching her audience and grinning ...

She is also beginning to talk. This is her with 'Adda'. Not the name he was originally given but he does answer to it. Of course she over-generalises and other dogs, pictures of dogs, Custard, her mum's lovely long curly hair and the blanket on the back of our sofa were all Adda as well. There were some variations - 'Adad, dada' and we're not really sure if she is using several similar sounds to mean different things. [It is advisable not to have parents and grandparents who are social scientists.]

Her visit has inspired me to make another book. i made this one soon after she was born [I strongly believe it is never too early to read to a baby.] It has pictures of dogs, including a cocker and a border collie like her other grandparents' dog - and one grey cat. All called Adda of course.

As this book is popular for reading and chewing I have started another one - this time of teddies, as they were all I had enough images of. I am thinking of making a book of textures next as she loves to feel things.

The books were inspired by Gwen Marston's 'Fabric Picture books' - not quite my usual style but very enjoyable to make.

Friday 25 July 2008

A short post

I made some more books today – still feeling uncreative so following other people’s instructions, from here:


and here:


The accordion in a matchbox was very easy to make and would be fun if you have children to amuse – and enough matchboxes. Getting them to draw or write in the books might extend your period of peace and quiet …

The covers of the chopstick books are made from an old calendar – the paper wasn’t thick enough on its own so I stuck two pages together which made both sides of the covers interesting.

The tutorial suggests cutting grooves into the chopstick with a utility knife but I found it was easier to put it between the blades of an [old!] pair of scissors and rotate the chopstick.

For some reason we had a ream of this rather bright paper so, as the printing on the chopsticks was green, I decided to use some of it up for the pages.

There won’t be much creative stuff over the next couple of days as Babybel is coming to see us –and her mum, dad and dog as well, of course. [Custard will act affronted at the arrival of a dog and then eat his food while he eats hers.]

Babybel is crawling and pulling herself up so there will have to be a clearing up and raising of things out of reach before they arrive – and constant vigilance while they are here. I expect to be exhausted by Sunday evening …

We may also have a small celebration tomorrow night as it is our wedding anniversary - Wensleydale has been putting up with my funny little ways for 37 years now.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

I don't know why

but since we got back from holiday I have felt creatively uninspired. I am working on other people’s designs, but I have had no ideas of my own. I had lots before we went away, which I couldn’t start because there wasn’t time – but now I can’t remember what they were.

So these are what I have been working on – two designs from old editions of ‘Classic Stitches’, one by Anwyn Dean and one by Sandra Hardy - with some modifications of course, I rarely follow a pattern exactly. Each bag has a little notebook to go with it – the idea is that in exhibitions I will be able to make notes and quick sketches without having to search in my big bag for pencil and paper. Will it actually happen? – Well, only if I remember to take one with me! Why do I need two? – I don’t need two, I just made two.

I have also been working on the embroidery I took away on holiday. This is based on the knot garden I started in a class with Owen Davies and threw away because I hated the colours. The design is Owen's but I have changed some of the stitches and as you can see the colours are now completely unnatural – but much more to my taste. Since I took the photo I have started on the plush stitch foliage in the gap – and unpicked almost as much as I have sewn. Whatever made me pick black canvas? Of course watching the alpine stages of the Tour de France at the same time didn’t help! I think it will probably become a box top.

And on a completely different topic – Quality Control has been at work in the loft, including a very close inspection of some vintage spiders’ webs.

Monday 21 July 2008

Journey to the North Country - fit the third and last

The last bit of our trip was more for nostalgia’s sake than for art’s sake – although we did manage to fit in a castle, and two very different museums. Oh, and another Anthony Gormley, in passing.

We used to live in the north east and decided to break our journey back from Glasgow by spending a couple of nights in County Durham. As it was a relatively short drive, and Wensleydale had never been to Bamburgh, we diverted on the way down to go to the Castle. You may never have heard of Bamburgh Castle, but if you like historical films you will probably have seen it. It has appeared, often in the background, in several films, including Becket, and Elizabeth.

The day we went was the best weather of the holiday so I got some good photos of the views from the castle. These are the Farne islands.

The castle was ‘restored’ circa 1900 and the interior is probably of most interest if you like Victoriana and porcelain [I have never seen so many plates!] Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a walk on the beach – like most beaches in the area it is stunning.

On the way round Newcastle we passed Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’ but didn’t have time to stop. I found it more impressive in situ than I have in photographs.

Our two museum visits were to Bowes and Beamish.

Bowes Museum and most of its contents, like the Burrell Collection, were a gift from rich philanthropists [called Bowes, not surprisingly].

Unfortunately the building is undergoing roof repairs – and the famous ‘silver swan’ [an automaton] was also being repaired. However they have some good textiles, and there was a Sisley exhibition, which I enjoyed much more than I expected to. They are not paintings which yell ‘look at me!’ but when you do there is a lot to see, including his use of colour. There was a little painting of a vegetable garden which had the most lovely greens, turquoises and pinks in it. Unfortunately I can’t remember what it was called to Google it and, as we had discovered before on this trip – no postcards.

Our final trip was definitely nostalgic. When we lived in the North East we went to Beamish Museum so often that we became ‘Friends’ [unlimited free entry in return for an annual fee]. Cheeses Major and Minor loved it. It is an open air museum with trams and buses [which you can ride on], trains [which you can ride on], old fashioned fairground rides [which you can ride on], odd lumps of machinery lying around to look at [but not climb on] – and 400 acres to run around in to get small people tired. [One or two of my readers may remember this, which has featured in family photos before.]

Well – it is 25 years since we were there last – and I think there is 3 times as much to look at. We were the ones who were tired and we only looked at the bits that were new to us. I found some quilts and samplers to look at amongst the machinery, including this wonderful representation of Adam and Eve, and I bought a book on North Country quilts.

Then home through really heavy rain - why is it that people in grey cars will not put their lights on when driving through grey rain and spray? We are both quite tired and all the things I was going to do when I got back have not got done. We did go into Southampton shopping yesterday – big mistake as the traffic was horrendous. [Which is why this is late.] And they are building an Ikea so it can only get worse!

Saturday 19 July 2008

Journey to the North Country: Fit the Second *

I left you on the beach on the way to Glasgow – after a wet drive and a somewhat scary negotiation of Glasgow’s idiosyncratic motorway system we arrived safely. We have been to Glasgow twice before, but always flown so driving was a new experience.

Our reason for going to Glasgow is always the same – Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald.

If you don’t know about Mackintosh, you could start here:


As I mentioned in my last post, there is a Klimt/Mackintosh connection. The Mackintoshes met Klimt when they exhibited in Vienna, and there are strong similarities between CRM’s designs, and those of the Vienna Secession. However, the art historian Nikolaus Pevsner thought Margaret was a bigger influence on Klimt than her husband, and looking at her images of women and his I can see why.

[Can’t you tell I used to be a teacher?]

On the first day we indulged in a little retail therapy in the best branch of Borders I know. Conveniently, Borders is just behind the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, which is a wonderful space.

This is the exhibition we saw:


I must confess that I had never heard of Jim Lambie before, but I loved his art. Looks like he spends a lot of time in charity shops. [That isn’t a criticism – so do I!]

Would you believe that despite the extensive website, they had no postcards of this exhibition for sale? You could buy postcards of other works of his but that wasn’t what I wanted. Very short-sighted, Glasgow!

Our second day was devoted to CRM. In the morning we visited the ‘House for an Art Lover’. It is a modern realisation of a design Mr and Mrs CRM made for a competition – and I think it shows. Beautiful of course but not really livable in! I specially liked these lights.

The setting and gardens are lovely: there was art in the surrounding parkland and an amazing children’s play park. We wished Babybel was with us although she is perhaps a little too small yet ...

In the afternoon we went to Hill House, which is the house CRM designed for the publisher Walter Blackie. Definitely livable in. It also has some of Mrs CRM’s textiles. It was fascinating to see one of her original antimacassars for the living room. You can just see the reproductions here:


Hard to believe that it dated from the beginning of the last century, the colours and use of stitch were so modern.

Our final day in Glasgow was spent at the Burrell Collection – which I have wanted to visit for a long time. Fortuitously our visit coincided with an embroidery exhibition, 'Suzani embroideries from Uzbekistan'. If I hadn’t finished my C&G work on foreign embroidery, I know what I would be doing! Wonderful embroideries set in context, free admission, an excellent free leaflet with lots of colour illustrations, good cafe and lots of postcards. Well done Glasgow!

The rest of the Burrell collection isn’t bad either.

More tomorrow - probably.

[*with thanks to Lewis Carroll.]

Friday 18 July 2008

I have been unusually silent

because we have been away on holiday. I am resisting the temptation to show you all the 200+ photos I took.

Sensible Brits head for warmer climes when they go on holiday – so have we been somewhere where we could expect to get a tan? Of course not. Just rust.

We went to Liverpool, Glasgow, and County Durham. For those not familiar with British geography, these are all much further north than Hampshire, two are on the [wetter] west side of the country, and all have proud industrial histories. Not, perhaps, your usual holiday destinations. And of course we had typical UK summer weather – cold and wet.

So why did we go? As Susan correctly worked out when I mentioned our trip to Liverpool – primarily for this.


How could I not go?

There were relatively few of the famous pictures, but several of his earlier pieces and his less well known landscapes. There was a lot about the context of his work, particularly the design and architecture of the period, which included work by the reasons we were going on to Glasgow later. If you like Klimt it is well worth a visit – but don’t go into the last room unless you are very broadminded …

It was also good to visit Liverpool again – we think the last time we were there was in 1973. The first time I went there was on 2nd June 1953. Are you impressed by my ability to remember the date? [Actually, I had to Google it.]

I was taken to Liverpool in 1953 by my parents, to visit the only person we knew who had a TV, because there was a [so far] unique broadcast on the BBC. And if you know what it was you must be at least as old as I am, and you are probably British …

Unfortunately I cannot remember anything about the broadcast. I do remember eating a sausage roll for the first time. This accurately reflects my attitudes to the monarchy - and to

food …

Speaking of Liverpool and food - these appeared on the breakfast buffet. If you have read my blog before you will undoubtedly have realised that I am mad, and this confirms it. Who else but a mad woman would liberate a small processed cheese from a hotel buffet in order to photograph it?

It struck me that non-Europeans may not realise why I call Charlotte 'Babybel' - so here is one. They don't usually have what I thought were ladybird spots on them. However I have just realised it is probably meant to look like a football. Having a red football in Liverpool seems potentially dangerously partisan to me. [Obscure and feeble footballing joke by someone with no interest in football - you only need to know that Liverpool has two football teams, one of them known as 'The Reds'.]

Susan had told me to look out for the Superlambananas in Liverpool. So here’s the one outside the hotel.

And here’s one at Albert Dock – with this important message on it. Tate Liverpool didn’t appear to have one which I thought was remiss of them.

Between the hotel and the Albert Dock we also spotted some wonderful 1930s architectural details on and around the Mersey Tunnel office building.

On the way up to Glasgow we diverted off the main route to visit these enigmatic gentlemen.

I am a big fan of Antony Gormley and felt we couldn’t be in the vicinity without going to see ‘Another Place’. I wasn’t disappointed. Even the graffiti on a log on the beach was interesting.

This is getting rather long – so more tomorrow. Maybe.

Sunday 6 July 2008

Now it is officially all over -

our exhibition is finished.

This is my display – not very good but I had awful trouble putting up the wall hanging and once I’d got that up the rest just went up around it. Then it fell down and I was still restoring it when the exhibition opened … There wasn't a lot of room so the things I was less proud of came home.

On Saturday and Sunday we had fleeting visits from Babybel and her dad – here she is tucking into some Double Gloucester. This is one of the few decent photos I managed to take – in most of them she is looking very worried: ‘Why does gran keep pointing that flashy thing at me?’

Quality Control definitely did not approve …

Tuesday 1 July 2008

I've been a bit quiet

because not much has been happening. No Tuesday trip as Wensleydale was governing – well – taking the principal, who is leaving, out to lunch!

I spent the morning piling this lot up in the hall ready for our exhibition. This is two years work for C&G. I think it’s all there. There were a couple of things I was going to ‘forget’ because I hate them – but I’ve been good and included them. Of course if there isn’t enough space – and there usually isn’t – they might come home again. The photograph was taken before I added the branch to hang my dingle dangles on. And the vase to put the wrapped samples in. [Half a dozen wands and a broomstick. I kid you not. Oh, and a miniature wizard made from a wrapped peg.]

Apart from trying to remember where I had put everything, I have been playing with my new toy. These are my first two efforts. Nothing special but they helped me explore the machine. The stitch regulator is magic. I tested it on the green pencil case using the worst thread I ever bought – an Indian metallic which looks lovely but shreds if you look at it. I successfully used it for FME without a single breakage. Of course my FME is still pretty crap – but less crap than it was. [The zigzag which is just visible is a set stitch, not FME]

I had a nasty experience this morning. I turned the machine on and it made a continuous noise – a sort of whirring whine = or whining whirr. I thought it was a warning sound. I looked in the manual – which is permanently out next to the machine. The only mention of a warning noise was a beep. Panic nearly set in – until I realised that the bobbin winder was switched on. [It works automatically, you don’t have to press the foot pedal.] I must have caught it as I moved the machine.

I had to have a cup of tea to recover. I wonder how many people contact their dealers to ask about the strange noise their machine is making?
I have enrolled on next years course. It is a 'Creative Textile Workshop' which will run two days a term. It is run jointly by Terrie Hitchcock, the new embroidery tutor, and Susan Chapman, the P&Q tutor whom I know because I took Creative Sketchbooks with her last year.
There is some homework for the holidays - start a sketchbook, go to some art exhibitions and choose two artists to study. I feel smug because I have already been to two of the exhibitions listed and I have tickets for a third. so I have chosen my artists. One is Howard Hodgkin, whose exhibition of prints we visited recently. I hesitated for about 5 seconds before choosing the other one. OK i made three pieces inspired by his work this year - but I'm sure I can find some inspiration for some more ...