'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 February 2010

A lot of work …

but nothing to show for it – in blog terms, at least.

I spent all yesterday afternoon assembling the ‘A3 and smaller’ stuff into the A3 portfolio, and this morning doing the same for the A1 stuff. Not that there is that much of it – but by the time I’d mounted it and punched holes in it and written my evaluations on it – it took a couple of hours at least.

This afternoon was spent assembling and mounting:

  1. samples from artists’ sketchbooks – which I knew I had to do
  2. and linked examples of their finished work – which I didn’t. [When all else fails, read the marking criteria.]

Of course the samples I had already found for 1. had to be rethought in the light of  2. The printer has been working overtime – and of course good quality print outs use up a lot of ink - so it is all finished bar printing out another copy of a Raphael fresco, because the first one changes colour part way down.

I did make two discoveries in the course of all this – well, discoveries for me, I’m sure you know all about them.

One was Henry Moore's ‘Shelter Sketchbook’ on the British Museum website- drawings he made during WW2. If I could draw a tenth as well as that I’d be a happy woman. I think they are magnificent – and perfect for my purpose because some of them show ideas for sculptures.

The second, also via the British Museum, was Samuel Palmer’s sketchbook – quite different in style to Moore's, and strangely modern for the 1820s. [I love the way the website says the book was ‘bound originally in sheep’.]

According to Wikipedia, Palmer influenced two of my favourite artists, Eric Ravilious and Laurence Whistler. Mrs Cheddar introduced me to Whistler’s glass engravings, [here’s an example]  and now I’ve really looked at Palmer I can see the relationship.

So tomorrow – after spending an hour with my lovely but expensive hairdresser – I will print that Raphael out again [useful article in the Guardian yesterday about the importance of a Raphael cartoon and why we should prevent it being sold abroad], write some more evaluations – and start thinking about the next deadline …

Friday 26 February 2010

Not waving but drowning …


under the volume of paper I've collected during the past few months of drawing studies, and which I've got to find, mount and assemble in some sort of order before the hand-in date. Then I have to find my sketchbooks,  write the dreaded evaluation, add some sort of discussion about artists' use of sketchbooks, hand it all in and breathe a sigh of relief, because that will be the last deadline – for a while.


So of course I started by making a couple of portfolios.

You didn’t think those holdalls I bought from Artesaver were for handing in work, did you? They are for storing work before I hand it in – or when I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.


These are for handing in.

Yes, I have made a couple of portfolios already – but those were for the stitch and print samples. These are for the drawing samples.

Confused? – so am I.

Anyway, they are different sizes, so I now have a full set, A1 to A4. No, I’m not going to make an A5 one, that would be silly. I am wondering whether I need a bag to hold the sketchbooks and booklets I’ve made, though ….

Procrastinating? Never!

Of course it would have been perfectly acceptable to hand everything in in polyholdalls – but where’s the fun in that?IMG_0496

Do I need to get a life? Definitely.

In another part of the forest, daffodils are blooming. Well, I think they are daffodils. We all need a sign of spring.

Thursday 25 February 2010

I never thought I’d say it …

but I actually enjoyed drawing studies yesterday! Perhaps because we spent most of the time working relatively quickly on exercises which did not require accurate reproductions.

We spent most of the time drawing a still life – the same still life, more or less. We drew  it with different media. We drew it with both hands. We drew it rotated, 4 times, on the same piece of paper. We blew up acetates of bits of our drawings on an OHP [I want – no, need - an OHP!] and then went over the lines with paint.

We also did a bit of scaling up or scaling down the old-fashioned way with squares. We looked at negative space and chiaroscuro. And it was exhausting but fun.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos before I packed the results  of all this work into my new polyfolders from Artesaver – and as that took half the afternoon, I don’t propose to haul them all out again until I have to. [Not that there are a lot of them – it is just that finding a space for an A! size folder was a little difficult.]

I can show you two more results from my exploration of things I wanted to try but hadn’t got round to.


I started with this, which I took in the snow.  Then I used a technique from Jane Dunnewold, in Issue 28 of Quilting Arts – except I cheated by using a photo. I printed it on good quality paper, painted the white bits with acrylic paint, and when it was dry covered the whole thing with Indian ink. When that had set for a bit I shoved it under the tap.



As you can see, the paper didn’t disintegrate – and most of the ink did wash off the paint. The point of the process is to get those grainy, etching-like lines, which I love.





Now for something completely different.  I don’t often wear brooches, certainly not flowery ones, but when I saw the instructions by Roz Johnson for this, in an old copy of Patchwork and Quilting, I had to have a go. [Sorry, I can’t tell you which edition, but there are kits on her website.  Oh, it also tells you that it was issue 190!]

The brooch is about 6 cms across, uses tiny scraps of felt and embroidery floss, and took an evening of peaceful hand stitching. I enjoyed it so much I’ve got another one cut out already.

Tomorrow, however, I must buckle down to work to meet the next two college deadlines!

Monday 22 February 2010

Just pootling about …

My lack of motivation continues, after the burst  of activity last week getting ready for the first two deadlines.

And as I had to get up early to take best beloved for his haircut [every one individually cut] I had a lot of time on my hands.

So – shock, horror - I tidied the work room.

You have to understand that the word ‘tidied’ has different meanings for different people. My mother, for example, would not have regarded what I did as tidying. She had plenty of junk, goodness knows – but it was all put away. [I won’t tell you what it was like clearing her house after she died – I will just say that I doubt anyone else ever had so many drawers full of empty plastic bags.]

However, the workroom is tidied, in my meaning of the word - i.e. you can now see most of the floor and some of the worktop…

I even sorted the teetering heap of tearsheets and print outs. A lot ended in the recycling bin –‘Why did I ever think I wanted to keep that?’ – but others got put in the appropriate books and files. I now have a file labelled ‘Things to do when uninspired’ – things I’ve kept telling myself I’d get round to trying one day.

So this afternoon – I tried two.

IMG_0482 This – from here – except Jessica’s are much more stylish than mine. No, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the idea, but I like grids and weaving. I think it might be interesting to try in fabric.




And this from here, because I bought a flower loom ages ago and thought it was about time I tried it out. [As usual my camera has failed to catch the nuances of colour – the two layers go together a bit better than they appear to.]

Flower looms, it appears, require a lot of thread and a lot of patience – more than I’ve got. I don’t see any of those flower loom blankets in lovely acrylic yarn in my future – although this Flickr page almost makes me change my mind …


And then I wasted some time trying to find some buttons to add to the collage – which is looking increasingly odd. [It reminds me of something but I  can’t think what!]

The blue circles are washout marker, and will shortly be filled with stem stitch spirals.

I have a lot of buttons – see digression about mother above – but

somehow never the right ones. I thought I had a lot of little black ones, but it turns out I don’t – probably because I made a necklace with a lot of them years ago, pinching an idea from an art teacher of my acquaintance. [Heavens, don’t I ramble?]

I decided I didn’t like it with buttons on anyway. I did find some beads –although I seem to have fewer black beads than I thought. [Blame my aunt – and me – for my collection of beads – mum wasn’t in to those. And the fabric collection is entirely my own.]

Sunday 21 February 2010

More books

Well, booklets.

One of the drawbacks of using mailers as book backs is that you have to cut down standard sized paper – which leaves you with a problem. Do I throw the leftovers away? Do I use find a way to use them - to make more books, for example?

No question.

So when I found these instructions and the cereal box booklets here, I had to have a play.



These are the mini notepads – a bit plainer than the ones in the instructions, but good for sticking in a pocket.





And these are the cereal box books – except mine used a photo  paper packet, not a cereal packet, as we don’t eat that sort of cereal. The covering  is old calendar pages.

We won’t talk about the mistakes, which were entirely my fault – it probably wasn't a good idea to change the sizes the first time I made them – or to make so many – or to do them both at the same time. 

But I like them. [I once saw Dick Emery in a restaurant in Bournemouth and he looked exactly as you would expect him to. And so did his female companion.][Note to non-Brits or those too young to remember, Dick Emery was a comedian whose punchline was ‘But I like you’ – delivered while giving his interlocutor a playful tap that knocked him flying – and while wearing drag. Naturally. But I digress.] [If you don’t like my digressions, blame Wil for encouraging me.]

Meanwhile, Quality Control was keeping a careful eye on the decorator. [Not mIMG_0475e, I don’t do decorating – although I have got designs on that tin of white emulsion.

That stripy thing behind her is a cupboard wearing a duvet cover. Honest. Would I lie to you?

Saturday 20 February 2010

A new book, an old book, and the beginnings of a collage – sort of…

It’s been a fairly productive day, despite feeling distinctly uninspired for most of it.

I finished another sketchbook – one which I started a while ago when I painted some paper in the style of Frances Pickering. Although I loved the results, the paper has been hanging around irritating me because it raised my workroom just above my mess tolerance level – although that is pretty high. [Put it away? Where?]

Yesterday I started trying to assemble the painted pages – and a few more - into a book and made a mess of punching the holes in the spine. So I went and sulked in the bath.

IMG_0459Today I had another go, after rescuing the spine with a strip of duck tape. [‘If it moves when it shouldn’t – duck tape. If it doesn’t move when it should – WD40.’ Can you tell I used to live with an engineer? Although actually he is this sort of engineer. He’ll hate me if he ever reads this <g>.]

It was a bit of a fight – but I won. I think I have gone about as far as I can with the repurposed Amazon mailer sketchbook – this one weighs 750 gm and has [reaches for calculator] 224 pages. Even at my planned one drawing a day it’s going to take the best part of a year to fill – and I am not achieving one drawing a day, by any means.

I acquired two other books today, courtesy of ABE books and the postie. IMG_0470 You may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing about old embroidery books [I have a bit of a thing about new embroidery books as well, but not as big as the thing for old ones. Feel the same about men. But I digress]

I’d read about Mariska Karasz on The Textile Blog [well worth reading if you are at all interested in textiles] and I really liked what I saw of her work. I couldn’t quite afford the book about her work – the one I did buy is a more of a teaching book, but it does have some examples, and lots of lovely line drawings in that ‘ethnic’ style that was so popular in the 40s and 50s.

I have been interested in the work of Hannah Frew for a while – chiefly because we were told we should include her in the C&G history of British embroidery, and I found it very difficult to find out much about her! So I was pleased to find an article about her in the current issue of ‘Stitch’ – and even more pleased to find she had written a book – albeit in 1975.

Unfortunately although both books were very reasonably priced – I had to get them from the US, which put the cost up a bit …


And finally – after joking about an embroidered collage for drawing studies – I started one.  Cut back appliqué, inspired by a section of one of the scans I showed you yesterday. But in reverse, because I worked the machining from the back.




It is looking a bit unbalanced at the moment but I’m hoping some hand stitch will help that. And after all – ‘it is only a sample’.

Friday 19 February 2010

Catching up.

I spent the afternoon playing with my ‘light box’ [a desk lamp under a glass coffee table] while I worked on one of the tasks from the college session I missed in January because of the snow. [I was going to type ‘way back in January’ until I realised it was only last month – so much has happened in the meantime!]

The first task, which I did a while ago, before the great deadline trauma, was to make marks on tracing paper to sounds. Not knowing what the real sounds should have been, I found ‘Late Junction’ on BBC I-player. The programme is strongly recommended if you like your music quirky.

Then we had to layer the tracing paper, put cartdrawing studies6ridge over the top and a light underneath, and trace the marks. Like this.

Interesting, but I'm not sure I can go anywhere with them. The next step is supposed to be a collage inspired by the tracings, but – er – they don’t inspire me.

drawing studies7

So I tried scanning the tracing paper  in various combinations.  Not sure I see a collage in there – but I see lots of stitch-like marks.

Perhaps an embroidered collage?

Wednesday 17 February 2010

It’s finished!

The evaluation for module 3 is finished, printer, reprinted after I punched holes in the wrong side of the pages, and bound. OK, it’s just a simple card cover with  lolly stick and rubber band binding – but  that’s all I feel up to.

I have also finished my third, of a group PowerPoint presentation for the following week, which I have emailed [I hope] to she who is in charge of collating PP presentations. I am now attempting to print it, but working out how to print it with notes attached has proved difficult, as I am unfamiliar with PP 2007, and what used to be simple in XP is much less obvious in 2007. [Note to Microsoft – it is possible to have too much choice.]

And the printer has stuck on delete which means that to get it to do anything I need to turn everything off, turn widdershins three times. throw salt over my shoulder to propitiate the gods of small things and try again.


However I do have the prospect of a day of grannying tomorrow, so getting all of this out of the way has its rewards.

Spell check wants to change ‘Grannying’ into ‘granting’. Wonder if it’s trying to tell me something …

Monday 15 February 2010

Progress has been made …

IMG_0441 The portfolio cover has been completed, and a binding method found. I remembered I had some binding rings I bought for a book making course and never really took to – but they are perfect for this. They even provided something to tie a handle to, which was another problem solved.

The black band is elastic to hold it shut.


All the samples fit for public display have been moudegree 20108nted and included. [This is just a sample of the samples.]

I solved the problem of A3 paper  samples looking silly in an A2 portfolio by mounting them on A2 paper – although that necessitated double mounting to make them stand out.

Now all I have to do to meet the Module 3 deadline is to complete the evaluation.

So I am procrastinating by writing this blog entry.

And we won’t mention modules 1& 5 …

Saturday 13 February 2010

A Tale of the Unexpected

Last month Sandy posted about her unexpected batch of goodies from Dylon. Emma Forbes from their PR company had spotted her post about  snow dyeing, and sent her a batch to play with.

‘Lucky lady’, I thought, ‘Things like that never happen to me.’

You can guess where this is leading, can’t you?

On Thursday I, too, had an e-mail from Emma, who had  seen my post about snow dyeing with Dylon. She kindly  offered to send me some more dye because I seemed to be using older ones.


So at an ungodly hour this morning the postie brought me this lot.  Lovely dyes and some Colour Catchers to feed my embroidering-on-Colour-Catchers habit.

And I realise just how old my dyes were - when did Dylon start putting their hand dyes in packets rather than those little tins which were so difficult to open?

If we’re unlucky there might be some more snow dyeing in my future – but I think it’s more likely to be conventional dyeing – well, as conventional as my dyeing ever gets. As Dylon will dye both viscose and wool, I'm tempted to experiment with viscose/wool felt to see what happens. Watch this space.

At the moment, though, I'm trying to stay focussed on collating everything for the various hand-in dates after half term. I’m sure normal human beings would just put everything into a bought portfolio – but those who know me will not be surprised that I decided to make one. [I blame A. – half way through C&G she made a remark about imprisoning embroidery in plastic – or words to that effect, it’s been a long time – and I started mounting samples in books. Can’t blame her for having to make them myself, though – that is entirely my own obsession.]

IMG_0440 I have already made an A4ish sized one – but needed something bigger. This is the front cover - roller printed slubby furnishing fabric from the Fent shop in Skipton, backed with a piece of leather cloth from who knows where. It is A2ish in size, because that was the size of the leather cloth. I have painted some grey board for the back. I will probably bind it all together with binder posts – but I’m also thinking of a stick and elastic binding. I don’t want to use anything too permanent as I expect to add more samples as the course goes on.

Of course it is too big for most of my samples – but better too big than too small. I  am trying to resist the temptation to make an A3 one as well – which smacks of procrastination. What am I procrastinating about? Writing my reflective journal entries to go with the samples. Normally I enjoy writing – but this is new, unknown and scary

Friday 12 February 2010

I’ve been a lazy blogger …

although I have been a busy one as well – deadlines for college are looming after half term, and although I thought I’d kept reasonably on top of things, there still seems to be a lot to do.

Wednesday’s degree session was very enjoyable, despite including an afternoon of drawing. In the morning we had a lecture on Fine Art Textiles – which started with the history of embroidery [been there, done that, wrote a tome about it] but then moved into looking at textiles in art, which was, I'm ashamed to say, pretty new to me.

The afternoon’s task was to make a mind map on the subject of ‘line’, then make 50 30-second sketches inspired by the mind map, and then ‘become obsessed’ about our favourite thumbnails and produce a more finished piece. And in the middle we’d have a tutorial …  all in about 3 hours.

Mind maps – no problem, after all I used to teach mind-mapping. So, because I usually run out of space when I make a mind map, I used a piece of A3 and wrote small. But although I wrote a lot, I didn’t really get very creative – it was all a bit literal. Like straight, dotted, wiggly, parallel etc. etc. etc.

So I decided to get started on the thumbnails.

I didn’t mean to make a book – honest. I only realised it was a book when a fellow student commented on the fact that I was making one ‘as usual’. How well they know me …

What I thought I was doing, was using an idea in one of the new Beanery and Littlejohn books [‘Constructions’ at the bottom of the link– it’s good].

B&L suggest making a concertina of paper, folding it up and making a series of line drawings on it, without being able to see the others – a sort of visual Chinese whispers. B&L used architecture – but I used lines.  Like straight, dotted, wiggly, parallel etc. etc. etc. [Most of the other students did line drawings, rather than just lines – perhaps because they are more confident drawers than I am.]

I found that the requirement to do 50, quickly, made me use different media, and get more and more inventive about what a ‘line’ was – lines of dots, weaving, wrapping, slashes in the paper. I did do some ‘proper’ drawings too – of my mug which was sitting in front of me – but using two different pens held together, or with my eyes closed, as well as the conventional way.

The resolved piece was more difficult – done in a bit of a rush at the end and, I realised, on too big a scale. What worked for the thumbnails didn’t work at 8 times the size.


Yesterday I made the concertinas into a book – although they are doing their best to escape. 





Funny how you don’t realise your lettering is wonky till you look at a photo.



I also did some more work on the unresolved piecIMG_0435e - which went so well that it is now in the bin.

This is the second try.  I bet you’re  surprised that it’s another book. Same size, different format.



As instructed, I became obsessed.





After all that we had an enjoyable trip to the Watermill with Mr and Mrs C to see ‘Heroes’, which was very funny and a bit sad, and just what I needed in the middle of a stressful week.

Oh – and the tutorial? It was better than expected. I was told my drawing needed to get freer, and some useful suggestions were made. 

The drawings by Babybel which I had included were admired just a little bit more than her granny’s efforts, though. Quite right too.

Monday 8 February 2010

A few more samples.


I forgot to post the two FME samples I was working on last week – so here they are.

This is the required sample of FME lace – not one of my favourite techniques! The flower petals have holes in them [I do like holes] – the leaves were made separately and then attached to the fabric.




And this silly thing  is what I did with the samples of cords.   The background is a left-over from C&G – cheapo velvet with painted bondaweb, to which I added FME zigzags and couched cord of all descriptions.

Thanks to Anna for the tips on cords. I don’t find the normal foot flattens them too much if I reduce the pressure, but her straw idea did make the free motion ones much more controllable. So much so that I used that trick for some cords for this. Can’t show you mine, though, as it is a gift for someone …


Today I’ve been working on a screenprinting sample – although it morphed into another FME sample. [Not sure what has brought on this citrus-coloured fit.]

This was originally covered with rather too many red and orange flowers, but they faded or disappeared when I washed it. So I FME’d over their ghostly remains. The result is better than the original, I think – the vagueness of the remaining outlines meant I felt freer about what I was doing.

It really needs another flower in the middle, although there is no ghost there, so I may need to take my courage in my hands and do it completely free hand …


Friday 5 February 2010

Busy busy busy

Well, busy for a retired person!

Wednesday was college, as usual. This week it was screen printing, which I had done before. Once. Despite having a screen of my own.

As might have been expected by those who know the two tutors involved, this was a rather more experimental session than my last experience. Precisely cut stencils under the screens? No. Careful registration of the screens? No. Washing them out between colours?  Don’t be silly. I did end up feeling that I really need some thermofax screens, though.

Unfortunately I oIMG_0399nly took one photo of my work, and the rest of it is drying, so unphotographable. And these ladies gained a bit more colour later, when we all went into a scraping the dye on with old credit cards phase.  These were done with a freezer paper stencil.

Even more unfortunately, the colour seems to have faded on some of my pieces – the result, I suspect. of old dyes. But they are, after all, ‘only samples’ …

Yesterday was busy in a different way. First we went to an exhibition at the Discovery Centre by Louise Cattrell. Wonderfully atmospheric pieces, which at first glance look like Turner skies – until you begin to look deeper into them. If anyone would like to buy me ‘Strand’ for my birthday? It is one of the smaller ones …

After a nice lunch just next door to the Discovery Centre , we went back for a talk on Van Gogh. Very good – apart from a woman in the row in front of us who tutted at any and every thing. My fellow student L. moved along the row behind her to sit next to us - ‘Tut’. Someone else moved along the row in front of her to sit with their friends - ‘Tut’. And that was before it had started! I wasn’t surprised she was on her own.

She told Wensleydale during the interval [L. and I had sloped off to look at the Alice Kettle] that the talk wasn’t very good because the speaker was either saying what she already knew, or going into too much detail. Couldn’t win, really, could he? Fortunately she then left, and three rows relaxed …

We are obviously ignorant because we learned lots of new things, and we liked the details he gave on Van Gogh's painting techniques, influences and use of colour theory – which is what I think she meant by ‘too much detail’.

After all this gadding about, it’s been good to spend today at home. I splashed some Brusho about  – a bit of Pollocking and lots of paper [brown and cartridge], painted using a technique suggested in Frances Pickering’s book ‘Page after Page’. Lovely book, very inspirational, strongly recommended if you are an embroiderer who likes to make books – or possibly a book maker who doesn’t mind sewing.degree 20107

The papers ended up pretty good too, although the colour choice was governed by ‘What have I already got mixed that needs using up?’

That is corrugated card top right. Why paint it? No idea - it seemed like a good idea at the time, and is what the book was wrapped in. Pickering encourages you to try different materials for your books - the brown paper is also recycled packaging.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Another Tuesday trip – but -

for once, without Wensleydale.

I think I have mentioned that, for the degree, we have to do a presentation on an artist of our choice. And our group’s unanimous  choice was Alice Kettle.

Quite fortuitously, she has an exhibition on in Farnham, in collaboration with ceramicist Stephen Dixon. So of course we had to go. Very interesting work – recognisably Kettle, but different to the Discovery Centre piece that I am so familiar with. A bit smaller, to start with - especially the plates. If you, like me, are a Kettle groupie, it is well worth a visit. And the gallery is under threat as the result of funding cuts so they need as many visitors as they can get! The exhibition is free, but you can pick up a copy of the limited edition book about it, with personal stitches by Alice, for £7.99.

We also popped into an exhibition by the designer David Hillman – an opportunity for nostalgia if you remember the launch of the Sunday Times colour magazine [no, it hasn’t always existed] or that wonderful magazine Nova - [the original, not the short lived pale imitation].

And we also visited the art shop for some retail therapy – much to the consternation of the students, who were a bit thrown by this invasion of middle-aged women talking to the saleswoman [who was a quilter] about textiles …

Have to go back for the Bernard Leach exhibition, though.