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

Dorothy Rowe

Thursday 30 December 2010

I decided…

it was time I stopped whingeing, got off my backside and did something.

So I took  one-and-a-lid of these [the box, not the cat] …


and three quarters of one of these…IMG_4337and made this.IMG_4339Not beautiful, but I have it on very good authority [the External Examiner] that ‘It doesn’t have to be beautiful’. [The clamps are, of course, temporary - thanks, A. for tipping me off about them all those years ago.]

Then I made two drawer mock ups, and two view finders the same size as the bottoms of the drawers. for selecting sections to put in them.


Sections of what, I hear you ask.

Search me. Not that I have no idea – I have too many ideas. But at least I’ve got the chest made. The drawers will follow – I was a bit gobsmacked when I worked out big a piece of cardboard I’ll need to make just one drawer – hoarding all those book mailers turned out to be a good thing.

Of course, we haven’t yet had tutorials on this piece, so next week tutorial hands may be thrown up in horror at the very idea and it will be time for Plan B [thinking up Plan C, in case you didn’t know].

I’ve even found time to Google some images for the final Drawing Studies tasks – just a couple more to do [Richard Long for landscape, LS Lowry for architecture], then write down something about them, add an evaluation and I can sleep peacefully in my bed again. [Not that I ever do.]

I have a feeling this burst of enthusiasm stems as much from the fact that I am beginning to get over the cold some kind person gave me for Christmas, as from sheer panic at all these deadlines.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Ta da!


Essay written and printeda

PowerPoint completed a

PowerPoint notes printeda

Handouts printed a

Visual tactile aids made a

Personal Journal completed and printeda

And in addition I've wrestled this semester’s drawings into my portfolio – well, most of them. Fighting A1 paper into an A1 portfolio on the only space big enough [the spare room bed] made my back ache.

Now I need a drink.

The tactile aids are an example of French Knitting, which MacMurray used on two of her early pieces, [here, and here] and a sample of balloons pulled through rug underlay, which I think is  how she constructed these dresses. Not strictly necessary but I made the balloon bit a while ago, so as I’m into recycling…

I did try doing the French Knitting with string, which seemed closer to the rope MacMurray used, but after I’d bent the knitting needle I was using to pull the string over the pegs, I reverted to wool.

Since then I’ve made the mistake of looking at the marking criteria for Drawing Studies – and my heart sank. I’ve got the drawings, I’ve collated lots of images of relevant art from various places – but now I need to write something about some of them, as well as the ever-present evaluation. I’m not worried about the writing, just the time – I’d hoped to get DS out of the way today and make a real start on the real 3D imagepiece.

I was thinking of a chest of drawers full of ‘everyday treasures’ – maybe it will just be a drawer – possibly with dividers?

Monday 27 December 2010


Essay and PowerPoint presentation finished – apart from a final review and edit.

Unfortunately [there is always a downside] the essay is a tad too long. About 1000 words too long – which in an essay which was supposed to be no more than 2,500 words is, perhaps, more than a tad. My trusty editor has read it and suggested some cuts – otherwise it would have been even longer – but neither of us can see where else I could cut it without losing the thread of the argument.

I’m torn between handing it in and hoping they don’t notice <g> – or ‘fessing up and telling them to just read the first two thirds! Trouble is, the last bit is the bit which refers to my own practice, which is part of the brief. Sounds suspiciously like I haven’t really answered the question, doesn’t it?

The problem is that it turned into a fairly academic discussion of Susie MacMurray's work, which I than pulled together by linking her approach to my own.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…

I suspect the PowerPoint will be too long as well, but as I have no experience of PowerPointing – indeed, spent a lot of time in my last years at work resisting the notion – I don’t really know. Anyone know if 2 minutes per slide is a reasonable time allocation? That I could cut if necessary.

Glad it’s all done, though – now on to finishing off the Drawing Studies portfolio and then I can get down to the 3D piece. Oh, and New Year…

Saturday 25 December 2010

Santa was very good to me today!

I hope you have all had an equally good time.


Happy Christmas!

Friday 24 December 2010

Imagine the sound of a slowly deflating balloon…

That’s what I feel like. Not in a bad way – just gradually relaxing…

In addition to all the shopping, wrapping posting and cooking – on Wednesday BaIMG_4296bybel took her retinue to meet a VIE

More important than Santa – although he was there too.

More important than the Fat Controller – although he’s a clue.

[We went a bit shy at this point.]





This is the VIE we went to see – and he gave us all a ride, as did his friend Duck – all very well organized by the Didcot Railway Centre.

A good time was had by all.



Then one girl and her dog came to spend the night with us while her mum and dad celebrated their anniversary.





Today Gran and Grangrad have been recovering. And Quality Control is getting over her sulk.

Actually I spent most of the afternoon working on my essay – the first draft is finished, so I’m going to sleep on it and have another look at it tomorrow – yes, I mean tomorrow, as we have the big family do at Babybel’s on Boxing  Day, and Wensleydale has volunteered to cook.

Mmm – cooking Christmas lunch or writing an essay?

Wonder if he’ll swap?

Tuesday 21 December 2010





With rubber bands,






the bottom of mushroom boxes,




brown paper [can you read it?]






 bus tickets and the back of an envelope,




IMG_4267more brown paper,


and my favourite – 1/4 inch slices of a loo roll tube, stitched to paper.

You may have noticed these all lack one ingredient which perhaps should be part of work for a degree in stitched textiles. There is some stitch – but unless paper is a textile, there are no textiles.


Inspiration from here, here and here

Speaking of inspiration, after all my whingeing about Amazon’s non- express delivery – 3 days after ordering this from them [ordinary delivery], and after them telling me it probably wouldn’t arrive before Christmas because of the weather – the postie trudged up the drive with it this morning.

Guess what I'll be reading tonight.

Monday 20 December 2010

Celebrations and samples.

Wensleydale’s birthday bash was very enjoyable – good food, though I sez it meself as shouldn’t, good company and good conversationIMG_4254.

And good drawing.

This is the only photo I took all day, so I have none of the birthday boy, or of the good time had in the garden by the more energetic guests, with one very old toboggan and a lot of snow.

I even forgot to photograph W’s two birthday cakes – one from me, one from Babybel [with a little bit of help from her mum]. Hers was yummy cherry and almond, this was mine, almost as yummy!

Today it snowed again, despite the forecast, so I ducked out of going to the gym again and tidied my work room [putting away the fabrics left over from the 3D samples]. Once I could see the floor I played around with some ideas for the real 3D piece.  

The words ‘everyday treasures’ keep going througIMG_4258h my head, so I’m exploring ways of expressing that, using very ordinary materials to make little ‘treasures’ - which will go into a ‘treasure chest’, obviously.

I also keep thinking about amulets – too much reading Sheila Paine - so here we have a God’s Eye made with the backs of envelopes and string. [As you can see, I didn’t quite get round to vacuuming the floor…]

That led to a stitched version, top left here. IMG_4255The other pieces are experiments with painted brown paper, although I have changed my mind about using that. Of course, I could well change it back…


This is a work in progress – buttonholed rubber bands  -the tape measure is to give an idea of scale. 

No idea whether these ideas, specific or general, will work out, but it is enjoyable fiddling about – and after icing the Christmas cake tomorrow, I shall return to playing.

Saturday 18 December 2010

You win some, you lose some…

Yesterday was going to be the day we went to the Discovery Centre to see their latest exhibition and buy some family Christmas cards, [Last minute? Me?] before going on to Brasserie Blanc for Wensleydale’s birthday lunch.

It had snowed a bit, but nothing to put off even the most trepid of pensioners [yes, he’s a pensioner now, too]. We used the park and ride because it gets you nearer to the action than the car parks – and we’d seen what the queues for the car parks were like when I took him down to the doctor’s on Saturday. [He was right, it is sciatica, soIMG_4251 he now has some horrendous pain killers and an X-ray].

But the Discovery Centre was closed ‘for maintenance’.

So we went and had our lunch early [very good it was too] and got home in time to wrap the presents [me] and put up the tree [him].

Not enough tinsel [Family joke.] [Must remember to move my coat of the newel post before the hordes family arrive tomorrow.]

I was due to go to the gym this morning, so I thought I’d go into the Discovery Centre to get the cards, before getting the bus home – the top end of Winchester being the closest I wanted to get to the shops on the last Saturday before Christmas. There was a little pressure as we are having a family do for the birthday boy tomorrow, when I can save money by hand-delivering the cards.IMG_4242-1

We woke up to this.

I fought my conscience for all of 10 seconds and decided I wasn’t going - which gave lots more time for getting ready for tomorrow, but left a dilemma about the cards.

So after we’d cooked and cleaned I played around with some old photos and flauntr, which is not the most user-friendly of the free photo editing programs, but has a wide range of effects, frames etc.

After a lot of muttering from the mad woman in the corner, as she tried to work out how to get her nice new Epson printer to print a card, rather than a picture in the middle of a piece of card, I made some Christmas cards for the family. Babybel plays a starring role, you may be surprised to hear.


And one, dear readers, for you. A photo from last January as it happens, not this December.






And then the sun went down looking like this.

Which I suspect means it’s going to get very very cold…

Thursday 16 December 2010

Ticking more things off the list…

Christmas cards written and stamped       a

Cards posted                                        r

Wensleydale’s birthday cake made           a

Last minute Christmas shopping done     a  r    [Just realised what I’ve forgotten]

Presents wrapped                                 r

Well, three out of five ain’t bad.

The tree isn’t up yet but W. likes to do that on his birthday – i.e. tomorrow. Only one of the presents need posting – and that one has already missed the last posting date for the US by a week, so  it’s going to be late anyway. [I’m sure December has been much shorter this year – or maybe it’s because I've had other deadlines to worry about…

I gave myself another one in college yesterday, by volunteering to do my presentation at the earliest opportunity – i.e. 12th January. The essay is half written anyway [more than half after an attack of insomnia last night] and I just want to get it over with so I can start worrying about the next deadline – which is Drawing Studies, a fortnight later.

As it was the last session this term, we had an outside speaker – Jackie Langfeld talking about her experience on the Opus degree course, and the birth of the Paper Warriors. She was very good, and it was wonderful to look through her sketchbooks , and to see where she is moving on to. Although she told us that, at the start of the course she had no firm ideas about the way that her work would develop, [very reassuring!], it was fascinating to see the seeds of the warriors, to mix a metaphor, in her earlier work.

Lots of good ideas for my own sketchbooks, and a good potluck lunch as well – now no college till next year - just one Babybel sleepover, two birthdays, a wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Year – I’m sure I’ll find plenty of time to write an essay and do a PowerPoint presentation…

Monday 13 December 2010

More finishing!

Well, nearly.


This is done – all bar mounting it in my portfolio, as it is a Drawing Studies piece.

Notice the train on the left – it was amazing what a difference adding that little bit of couching made!



And this is also finished, bar the buttons. which will be added later tonight – glad to have finished it in time for Christmas. If the small cow fan it is intended for likes it, I may make another in the next size up, as it looks as though it will be a close fit – and it was quite quick to knit.

It is this pattern with added cow. I may put a pony on the bigger one – equines are fast catching up bovines in the popularity stakes. Her granddad and I both have bigger versions [without animals!] – elegant they are not but they are lovely and warm for dog and Babybel walking – and she is fascinated by the pockets on ours.

It has been quite a productive day as I have begun to sort out the Drawing Studies sketch books – making sure they have sketches in. They need to be handed in a week after Module 6, so I’ve got about a month to add contextualisation and evaluation. Might manage to fit W’s birthday bash [big one this year], Christmas, and the annual family journey on the buses in round it…

Sunday 12 December 2010

What does this tell you about me?

When I pick up a copy of ‘Hello’ at the dentist’s [the only place I ever read it] I recognise at the most 10% of the ‘celebrities’ in its pages – but show me a photo of the cast of the CBeebies Christmas panto and I know every one.

I can even recognise Justin Fletcher from behind by his boots [nice red Docs] - although to be fair who else would be playing the Dame?

Of course any non-Brit readers – and any UK readers without access to small children – won’t have the foggiest idea what I’m on about – but we get to watch the BBC’s preschoolers channel one day a week and we are aficionados.image

This flippant digression is due to relief that Module 6 is finished! Writing the evaluation has taken most of the day but it's finished! I'm still waiting for the paint on the lid of this box [containing the ‘one’ piece I'm handing in], to dry but it’s finished! [Well, nearly.]

So tomorrow to fresh fields and pastures new – like the landscape sketchbook, because it’s Drawing Studies - which means more contextualisation – and possibly a few ‘drawings’.

Friday 10 December 2010


  • All 3D samples photographed.                            a
  • The best photos printed out.                              a
  • Photos stuck in portfolio in a more or less logical order.                                                               a
  • Contextualisation examples found.                       a
  • Contextualisation examples added to workbook.    a
  • Evaluation added to workbook – ay, there’s the rub.
  • Box found for sample to be handed in.                  a
  • Box painted – er, not quite, but I’ve thought about it.

So that’s module 6 nearly finished. Must check when it’s due to be handed in!

Exciting day, or what?

Tomorrow, apart from taking W down to the doctor’s, I hope to finish off Module 6 and then have a look at what I need to do for Drawing Studies, which is due in in the second week of January. And I think someone asked for a copy of my essay plan by next week…

Must remember to write some cards and wrap a few presents some time,  preferably before W’s birthday on 17th December – or Cheese Major’s on 21st, or Babybel’s mum and dad’s anniversary on 22nd. Very inconsiderate of them all to have celebrations at this time of year!

Thursday 9 December 2010

Catching up and calming down.

I’ve spent the day catching up on all the mundane things which got postponed, due to the weather and Wensleydale's self-diagnosed sciatica – which is getting better. [He has a doctor’s appointment on Saturday so we’ll find out what he’s really got!]

In a way, it’s been nice to have a rather boring routine day, because yesterday was exhausting. It was the college trip, to half the Tates [we left St Ives and Liverpool for later].

We started off at Tate Britain for the Turner Prize exhibition – which was interesting …

I was a bit disappointed by Dexter Dalwood’s work – I have admired his pieces when I’ve come across them on the ‘net, but these felt less powerful than some of the earlier ones I’ve seen.

Angela de la Cruz was new to me and I thought the work and the ideas behind them were interesting, and worth thinking about in the context of embroidery.

I found the Otolith group’s works so intense that it was overwhelming – I would have liked to sit and watch each video in turn, but there just wasn’t time, so I am left with a fragmented series of images.

Susan Philipsz work is very haunting but I didn’t feel it was well served by the gallery space, although I'm sure that under the bridges of Glasgow, which is where it started, I believe, it must have been a very moving experience.

But for me the most stunning work was not part of the Turner exhibition at all, it was Fiona Banner’s Harrier and Jaguar – words fail me!

After lunch we went on the Tate boat down to Tate Modern for the Gauguin exhibition. I expected to be blown away by it but, perhaps because I was tired, I wasn’t. There were a few knock-out pieces – mostly the ones I already knew, like this one, but in general - when you’ve seen one pubescent scantily dressed South Seas maiden or one less scantily dressed Breton peasant, you’ve seen them all.

I wished I had spent more time on the floor below looking at Bacchus, Psilax, Mainomenos by Cy Twombly, or this Lee Krasner, or this exhibition which I missed completely.

Then we crawled home though the rush hour, playing ‘spot the Metropolitan Police’ round Westminster [it was a good night to commit crime in the other areas of the Met’s patch], and I eventually got home after a 12 hour day which I am not used to any more!

I enjoyed it though, despite my whinging!

Monday 6 December 2010

Snap happy!


Thanks to Babybel's daddy, I have been equipped with a little photographic knowledge and a tripod. Unfortunately Wensleydale is confined to bed with a bad back, so I have spent today, when we planned to go Christmas shopping, taking two or three [hundred] black and white photographs of inanimate 3D textile pieces -

and Rambo.

I wouldn’t say they were good photos, despite the excellence of Babybel’s daddy’s input – but there are enough not too bad ones amongst the many less good ones to fill the necessary portfolio – especially when the marker hasn’t really seen the originals.

So now I have to edit the photos, select the ones I want to print, print them, get more ink and photo paper, print some more, decide which piece I am going to hand in, [its photos don’t have to go in the book], stick in the photos, write an evaluation, contextualize the samples and I’m done!


This is the piece I will probably hand in – either that or the Anglo-Saxon coffee cosy, but that is a bit derivative of a piece the tutor showed us, so I think it will be this bowl of unidentified archaeological artefacts instead. Possibly with a labelled box? Or am I mad?


Of course I also have to finish this, including trimming off those unravelling hills and adding a train, put more stuff in the sketchbooks for drawing studies [contextualisation for those too], plan and write my essay [more contextualisation]and presentation, [aaagh - PowerPoint!], and start thinking seriously about the real 3D piece.

What will you be doing over Christmas?

Friday 3 December 2010

We thought we were going to miss out…


but when we woke up on Wednesday morning we realised that the rest of the country had very generously shared some of their snow with us. Not as much as some people have had, perhaps, but more than enough.

I was going to quote that poem about the snow coming on little cat feet – but just to check I Googled it and the poem, by Carl Sandburg, is actually about fog. Lovely little poem, though, and plenty of snow has come into the house on little cat feet – and belly and tail, since it is almost as deep as she is.

The humans, however, have stayed inside.


I began to take a few photographs [thanks to everyone who gave me much needed advice] – and I think one or two of them are probably useable.

But part way through, when I was whinging about camera shake, Wensleydale reminded me that Babybel’s daddy has a tripod, and then I remembered that he also has GCSE Photography  - so I whinged to him and he has offered me a loan of his tripod and a gift of his knowledge, and the photography is on hold till Monday, snow willing.


I have also made two books. One for the photographs when I’ve taken them and printed them [better order some more ink], and one as a workbook for the next module.

I’m bored with just spraying an Amazon mailer with paint for a cover – so I got a bit more creative with the one for the photographs. I stuck some bits of card on the mailer and daubed  it with emulsion paint. Trouble is that emulsion takes much longer to dry than spray paint, and current conditions in my painting studio [a.k.a. the conservatory – the unheated conservatory] – are not conducive to painstaking painting or rapid drying].image

This is the workbook for the new module – and the cover is a sample.

I think I need something to keep the ‘everyday treasures’ in – like a leather covered box – except it won’t be leather. I’ve made fake leather before with brown paper, but I wondered about trying it with newspaper – and it worked. Sort of.

What I did:

  1. painted newspaper with the last dregs of some dark brown acrylic.
  2. Waited for it to dry.
  3. Scrumpled it up and unscrumpled it.
  4. Swore when I tore it.
  5. Rubbed it over with a brown ink pad.
  6. Waited for it to dry.
  7. Stuck it to a Book Depository mailer [time for a change] with PVA.
  8. Waited for it to dry.
  9. Stuck brown paper on the inside.
  10. Waited for it to dry.
  11. Rubbed the outside with acrylic wax.
  12. Waited for it to dry.
  13. Made the book.

I didn’t want to reinforce the spine with tape – but I found the card tore when I stitched it [possibly because I was, for once, using linen thread]. I had to reinforce it and do it again, and by then I was fed up and tired. So that’s my excuse for wonky stitches. I was also thinking of stitching patterns on the covers themselves  - like saddle stitching – but decided that was probably not a good idea.

I haven’t ruled out using fake leather in the final piece, but I need to work out how to make it stronger – possibly by bondawebbing the paper to fabric before gluing it to card.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

One thing after another…

The good news

We had a good day with Babybel yesterday - dog walk in the morning, when we had fun looking at tracks in the snow, and a trip to Whitchurch Silk Mill in the afternoon where the ducks were very pleased to see us – or the bread we brought – and Babybel was fascinated by the water wheel, the working model of the water wheel, and the looms – another engineer in the family?

The bad news

This morning it was really hard to drag myself out of bed and off to college, so I was not best pleased when I got there to realise that:

  1. I’d forgotten most of the stuff I was supposed to be taking in to photograph [how could I forget a large plastic box that I trip over every time I go to the door?].
  2. the battery in my camera was going flat
  3. Wensleydale had the car, because he was having his hair cut, so I couldn’t go home or summon assistance.

However, as I am very much a ‘point and shoot’ photographer, I thought I would pick up enough information to complete the task at home. [I have, of course, lost the manual for the camera.]

What I learned:

  1. how to set the camera to black and white, as required – which I worked out for myself
  2. how to set up and light the work
  3. er – that’s it.

I will have a go at home – we have black curtains in the dining room and cream ones in my work room, for the required backgrounds, – so I won’t have to climb on the furniture to pin fabric to the picture rails, and we have a couple of suitable lights. I know that even if I had had all my stuff I would still have come home and tried again – but I am not very confident about succeeding.

We do have a book on digital photography – but when I looked at it, it is written for people who already know about photography, and is full of words I never knew existed.

So I tried to order the ‘Which‘ book on digital photography, on line but their shopping basket isn’t working.

What I need to know is the meaning of all the initials and numbers and things which appear when I press the function button – and why they matter. Anyone know any good websites – preferably written in English rather than techie, and which don’t advocate the use of wide angle lenses, filtered lights or other things not found in the average technophobic home?

I did get the details of the real 3D unit – and a quick tutorial – before I was able to get through to W, make my excuses and leave. It is, as I anticipated, on the same theme as the 2D piece – i.e. ‘Everyday’ [or possibly ‘Every Day’] and I have some ideas to do with ‘everyday treasures’ – those little things we keep in safe places which to anyone else would be junk. [Like baby teeth. Yes, I know, gross.]

I am not thinking of using real everyday treasures, but of constructing some – and a receptacle for them – a bit like Penny Burnfield’s wonderful ‘holotypes’, although not in glass jars. To be honest, part of my problem with the photography is that I am enthused by the new module and want to move on!