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

Dorothy Rowe

Saturday 30 July 2011

Sometimes one thing leads to another…

and you suddenly realiIMG_6756se the whole day has disappeared.

I meant to spend some time on this – the latest litter beast, known as Mark because it’s green.

But before that I was going to try some ideas from Gina Ferrari's sketchbook ideas on her blog.


Her second suggestion [after you’ve coloured your pages with watercolour and cling film] was to make a mask [or six], colour round the edges on a painted page with white oil pastel, and add more watercolour.

We’ll get back to that one in a minute.

Her third suggestion was potato printing. 

Slight logistical problem here.

No potatoes.IMG_6773

But I did have fun foam – and long term readers will know that I love fun foam stamps: they are a bit like Pringles – you can’t stop at one.

[Sorry about the colours]






While I was making stamps, I thought I’d try some eraser stamps on the litter theme.

Dedication or what, drinking all that Guinness in pursuit of my art?



Then I remembered an article in a recent ‘Quilting Arts’ about using eraser stamps to make little figures.

After I’d made the first set of body parts I noticed that the erasers I was using had little logos impressed on them, which I didn’t want on my figures, so I had to remake the body, head and feet using non-logoed erasers. Fun results though.

Then I remembered that I wanted to recolour the nasty coloured felt, because, as I expected, the spray paint had washed out. So I mixed up some acrylic and sprayed it withIMG_6779 that.

Believe me, this photo flatters it. Do you it looks sufficiently like the rotting contents of a plastic bag you’d rather not speculate about?

When the external examiner told me that ‘It doesn’t have to be beautiful’, I wonder if she knew what she was letting herself in for. And will she live to regret saying it?

But I digress.

image As I had paint left over, I decided to try out some of the fun foam stamps.  The green was really too runny, but I like the patterns it made, and the Guinness cans over pre-painted pages worked really well.


Then I tried the masks.

Oh, well, can’t win them all.

I think the technique is great, but it needs:

  1. better quality oil pastels
  2. a more interesting shape
  3. better quality oil pastels
  4. more contrast between the underpainting and the overpainting 

And better quality oil pastels.

So, without meaning to, I’ve done quite a lot for the PMS  - on top of the drawing I’ve done for Sian Martin’s Summer Sketchbook Project. image

All litter, apart from the shell. The one on the left is a stripy plastic bag, top right is some crumpled metal. The shell crept in because none of my litter has the right sort of texture.

imageOh, and the black felt did shrink. And really interesting things happened to the iridescent plastic when I zapped it.

I’m not sure how that effect fits into my litter theme but I’m going to have a really good try to find something.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Spot the difference.


No, they are not fried eggs – although if i wanted to embroider a fried egg I think I’ve discovered how to do so.

The top group are my experiments in quilting plastic [and a bit of painted silk which appeared from somewhere] onto felt.

The bottom group are the same pieces after they’d been through the washing machine.


Unfortunately they are not in quite the same positions – one difference you may have noticed is that the numbers washed off.

As numbered in the top photo they are:

  1. a carrier bag
  2. shrink-wrap
  3. a bit of swing bin liner

and the silk, which I thought it was polyester until I  tried a heat gun on it and it didn’t melt, just burned. No photos of the heat-gunned pieces as the differences were surprisingly small – mostly just holes in the yolks [a bit of acrylic felt as a resist under the plastic.]IMG_6757

I liked them so much I made a few more – shrink wrap, black bin liner and iridescent film from Crafty Notions. I think it’s shrinking felt as opposed to acrylic felt – we will find out tomorrow.





And in my pursuit of something suitably disgusting to make bag contents, I took a piece of not very nice dyed felt and made it even worse with spray paints – although it has just dawned on me that the paint may wash out when I try to felt it further. :>(


And on top of all that, I finished Daisy, who was waiting  until I could replenish my supply of Superdrug bags.

As someone who has carried recyclable shopping bags for years, I am finding it very hard to accept a plastic one if it is offered – but as this small piece took 1.5 bags, I will need to get into the habit of collecting them!

Unfortunately the daily drawing has slipped in this welter of machine embroidery [which, long term readers may recall, I don’t do] but I hope to get back to it tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

It was forty years ago today…

that a young man and woman, both with longer hair and slimmer waists than they have today, went to Ipswich Register Office [in those days conveniently located next to the ante-natal clinic] to get married.

The bride was on time but the registrar was late, and there are no photos because the uncle who was the official photographer somehow managed to lose them.

Despite that somewhat uneven start, they are still together, and today went out for a quiet celebratory lunch.

Thanks, Wensleydale, for being there and putting up with me all these years.

Sunday 24 July 2011

I’ve changed my mind.


Although I said yesterday that all samples were potentially personal cloths – these are definitely samples.

Interesting? Yes.

Odd? Certainly.

Unidentifiable litterish objects [ULOs]? Undoubtedly.

Resolved pieces? No.


I got up this morning with the intention of playing with plastic bags. The first one which came to hand was the shrinkwrap off yesterday’s paper, so I slid some nearby detritus [raffia and skeleton leaves left over from a long ago C&G piece] into it and ironed it. Mmm, interesting.

So I did it again with two weights of plastic bag, some cellophane, and some cling film. And then to finish off I tried ironing the lining from a wine box, though without trapping anything inside. [Too opaque – and it didn’t melt anyway.]

Then I tried my Clover mini iron [though not on the wine box lining], my heat gun and my soldering iron, all successfully – though the wine box lining took a lot of zapping before anything happened, and was most affected on the edges.

And while watching the last stage of the TDF [what will I watch for the next 49 weeks?] I tried stitching them. The cling film just ripped, but,  with a bit of care, all the others took stitch.image

Some of them look very litterish, so may lead to a resolved piece, after I’ve thought more carefully about the contents. [I want something that looks really disgusting, inspired by this. Nasty, isn’t it?]




Cadel, Andy and Frank made a break for freedom, attracted by the noise of the party next door, but I caught them before they managed to escape.





And after Mr Cavendish had won the final stage and the green jersey, I did some drawing to calm myself down. I cannot get the top right – looks more like a bottle than a can - but I like the shadowy effect of the bit of collaged hand made paper.

Tomorrow – what happened to the can next.

Another productive day. It can’t last.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Progress has been made…

on the PCs/PMS, though I’m not really sure what constitutes either. At the moment I’m working on the assumption that if it’s 2D – or 2.5D. like a book mock up – it goes in the sketchbook, and if it’s 3D and/or textile/stitch, it’s a personal cloth – or a sample for a personal cloth. I have come to the conclusion that I should just make stuff for the PCs, and whether it is a PC or a sample will ultimately depend on how much stuff I manage to make [The target is 10-15.]

So if I make 16 – 1 or more of them will be samples. Between 10 and 15, they'll all be PCs. Simple.

On that calculation – these may or may not be PCs, but they are definitely not for the sketch book:


Daisy because she’s a textile, and lumpy







and Cadel, Andy and Frank because they’re 3D [and look as if they are on a podium]image

I’ve noticed that a major constituent of litter is fast food detritus, so I decided to have a go at making my own ‘disposable’ cups using papier mache and photographs of the things which litter despoils. These will eventually be photographed in situ, but they are still a bit sticky. The rims need a bit of thought, but in general I’m pleased with them – especially Cadel.

I don’t like Daisy as much as her brother Tommy, the blue litter beast, so she may end up as a sample, if I manage to make enough pieces. Mind you, the quality of workmanship wasn’t improved by working on her while watching the TDF time trial – not normally my favourite part, but this one was almost as exciting as the Alpine stages. And now the right man has won [sorry Schleckies], all I’ve got to worry about is Mark Cavendish falling off in the Champs Elysees. [Does that really mean Elysian fields? I’ve never really thought about it before.]

I’m so productive, I’ve even done a bit of drawing. Sian Martin has been running a summer sketchbook project on her blog. As I already had a collaged, stained sketchbook like she suggests, I decided to join in.


I’m a bit behind, but at least I’ve started, and I hope to do more tomorrow. Not the organic forms Sian recommends, but more potential litter, which makes it a contribution to the PMS, and kills two birds with one stone.

Speaking of birds, there are either more pigeons this year or they are all following me around. Paranoid? Moi?

Thursday 21 July 2011

Time to stop whingeing…

and get going – with the Personal Cloths, that is.

So yesterday, because I think one of my problems [apart from no motivation] is having too may ideas [and no motivation to start any of them].

So I made a mind map – which at least sorted out my ideas, if not my motivation.

Today, after I’d tidied the workroom [again] and made a book for the workbook to go with the PCS – I found the rag shrink wrap ruglet I’d started and finished it.









Then I decided it would look better sewn into a cylinder - and then I wished I’d sewn it into a cylinder round a branch – like yarn bombing only with litter.image

But I couldn't be bothered to unpick it and resew it onto a tree  so I took it outside and photographed it in it’s natural environment.

I think it’s cute. I’m tempted to give it him a name. I also think he may be a resolved piece rather than a sample – which means there’s only another 14 PCs to go.

Fired with enthusiasm [I wish] I assembled materials and equipment to try making a hooked ruglet [Tommy is a proddy rug], but then I made the mistake of turning on ITV4’s live Tour de France coverage and couldn’t look away. Talk about nail biting! I was complaining to Wensleydale the other day that no-one makes dramatic lone break-aways in the mountains any more – spoke too soon.

I realise this is really boring if you have no interest in cycling, but I have to put up with all the sports I’m not interested in [i.e. all of them] for 49 weeks of the year, so I make the most of TDF [No satellite telly, so can’t get the Giro or the Vuelta.] 200 fit young men in tight lycra – what’s not to like?

Unfortunately little progress will be made tomorrow due to various medical appointments [nothing serious, just tests], so I hope to get back to number 2 on Saturday, TDF willing. It’s the individual time trial, which I usually find less interesting, but if the yellow jersey race is still as close…

Tuesday 19 July 2011

I had a dream…

about making an enormous wall hanging – not about litter, but for some reason about the kinder transport. I woke up at the stage when the tutor was gently suggesting I ought to quilt it.

That did give me an idea for joining some of my photos with faggotting [no, -I don’t see the connection either] and as I am at a complete loss for what to do for the PCs, I might just try it.

Today, being the second completely free day since the end of our Babybel-sitting duties [and I already miss the little monkey] had been allocated to PC/PMS. Instead it was spent on the essay. Wensleydale had read the penultimate draft, and, as usual, provided some sage advice, this time about clarifying my argument. And in the process of doing that I realised that some of my examples were irrelevant to the argument, while others needed development.

And when I'd done all that, just to be sure, I read the marking criteria. :>(

I hadn't contextualised my practice.

This of course assumes that I know what my practice is – even after two years of this course I am still trying to answer that question.

But I wittered on about how I would use what I’d learned from the study of artist’s books in my own books, not mentioning the distinct possibility that I won’t make any, proofed and printed and put it all in a binder and shoved it in my college bag.I will look at it again, honest, just in case, when I feel a little stronger.

Funny – I really enjoyed the written work on C&G.

Of course, finishing that and 3/5 of SAM has freed me up to worry about the personal cloths, and as I am at a complete loss for what to do for the PCs – oh, did I mention that?

Worry, worry, worry.

Monday 18 July 2011

One holiday task nearly finished…

only another three to go.

My trusty editor is, at this moment, reading my essay. Of course I realised as I gave it to him that I had left the date of the draft in the footer – so I shall have to reprint the whole lot whatever he says. Sometimes I'm really impressed by my ability to make work for myself.

For example – at the weekend I decided that I wasn't going to be making books for my final pieces after all, so I could give up making book models and do something else.

Then I came across some photographs in this book, showing a sculptural book made by soaking a Japanese bound book in water. [Googling that book led me to the author, Faith Shannon’s website – very inspirational!]

So I had to try, didn’t I? Although in my case I soaked them in coffee.

Unfortunately without much distortion. IMG_6673 Maybe because they are too small, or the paper [printer] isn't suitable.

So some more experiments are currently drying, for want of a better word, in the conservatory – cartridge paper, brown paper [naturally] and, in a tribute to Dieter Roth, newspaper. [Drying very slowly because after all, it did rain on St Swithun’s day, and our local saint, good as his word, has sent uimages rain every day since.

Apart from that. I’ve played around with some litter photos







and done some blind contour drawings of litter [white pastel on white paper is definitely hard to see] which I then dribbled/painted with something anonymous in a bottle [old Brusho, I think].

Not brilliant, but given my totally clueless state at the moment, I decided it was better to do something than wait in vain for inspiration to strike.

Friday 15 July 2011

Is there a name for forward slippage?

Apart from forward slippage? All because I had an unexpected morning off.

We’ve been having problems with our phone line – intermittent broadband and a very crackly line – so when BT wanted to come this morning to fix it I thought for a very long time before agreeing to cancel my gym appointment and wait in. Fridays are Wensleydale’s hydrotherapy days, so I very nobly volunteered to be the one who stayed at home – and yes, it’s better now. So far. [This is the second time we’ve needed a repair since we’ve had Infinity, which is twice more than we ever needed it in the 20 years previously.]

So having an unexpected free day, I decide to face up to a looming cloud on my horizon, and tackle the essay – which, you may remember, was on the timetable for this weekend.

I think because I’d written a fairly complete draft, I really wasn’t looking forward to revisiting it – boring, boring, boring. However I’d had a couple of ideas for  improving the beginning and ending, so I got down to it this morning.

In the end, it wasn’t too bad. I tweaked the bits I wanted to tweak, pruned some other bits [its still too long but I won’t tell anyone] spellchecked it and saved it. I'll look at it again tomorrow, give it to my trusty editor for approval, and do the final draft on Sunday. One weight off my mind, only another three to go.

Unfortunately, there has been backward slippage on SAM. We had a busier week than expected, and I've been too tired in the evenings to do much mark making. I’m a long way short of 50 marks, but I will do what I can this weekend and start PMS’ing and PC’ing on Monday.

We are going to have more time on our hands for the next few months anyway: Babybel’s mummy starts her maternity leave today, so no Babybel sitting for a while. We had a lovely few days with her this week, and we are going to miss the little monkey [though not getting up at silly o’clock].

Sunday 10 July 2011

A decision has been made.

This week will be devoted to SAM, next weekend to the essay [probably with some slippage] – and after that it’s PCs and PMS till September. [With a bit of room tidying if I feel the need to procrastinate get the urge.]

Will I stick to this? Who knows? Now I’ve told you and Wensleydale, it is more likely to happen.

As next week is going to be busy, I’ve been making backgrounds for SAM, so I have stuff prepared for a little bit of mark making in front of the telly. [The only problem with the Tour de France is that I actually have to watch it, rather than merely liimagestening. I can knit and watch young men on bikes at the same time, but not embroider.]

Yesterday was machine embroidery, today was embellishing – with a bit of heat gunning thrown in at the end, which is why some of these look a bit burnt.

The embellishing allowed the recycling of some old failures pieces whose time had not yet come – and the creation of one or two more.

The black smudges are not the result of an inadvertent conflagration, but some of the marks I made at the beginning of the course, printed onto an OHT. Mark? Definitely, Stitch? Maybe not, yet.


I have also managed a bit of mark making in the book. The top one is pretty mundane – sort of Kantha plus appliqué – but I like the way it shows through the hole in the next page – and then through the embroidery on net which started all this.

Is appliqué ‘stitch as mark’? I’m working on the principle that a smudge of paint is a mark, and the simplest way to make smudges in stitch is with appliqué.



Some of my other marks are a lot more vestigial – otherwise I'd never finish.






And I’ve Photoshopped some of my litter pictures - can you spot the interloper? Found only a hundred yards from the ring pull and the screwed up bit of paper.

These were done with a variety of filters and a bit of additional work – don’t want to make it too simple…


Amazing what you can achieve with a couple of freeish days and a bit of motivation.

[We won’t talk about the failed loaf of bread – I’m sure the ducks will enjoy it…]

Friday 8 July 2011

My first personal cloth.



I’m so proud. 

You may think it looks like a collection of rubbish – and you’d be right.

You would also be right if you thought it looked nothing like the photos of litter that I have been collecting for my PCs.

But, inspired by some rag rugs I saw while we were on holiday, I’ve been reading up rug making, and getting quite interested. This led to some ideas:

  1. rag rugs go under your feet, like litter, and
  2. rag rugs were traditionally made from recycled materials, so
  3. try recycling rubbish into rugs – well, rugettes, really, this one is about 15x18 cm.

It is made from shrink wrapping from the post – this little piece took 5 wrappers and isn’t finished so I am not about to make any big ones.

No idea if this will turn into anything, but I feel I’ve got started on the PCs.

Tomorrow – plastic bags?

P.S. Shame about Bradley Wiggins… Go Cav!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

If I gave the impression…

that my 50 ‘stitches as marks’ were all going to be made on that piece of hand dye I showed you – I misspoke.

Admittedly that was my intention – but in the big sort-out imageI came across a little book I made in my ‘splosh ink all over a big piece of white paper, chop it up, make it into a book and cut holes in the pages’ period.

It also had black and brown paper pages, and, as an experiment, starched poly sheer pages. And a couple of bits of embroidery I’d clearly put in there for safe keeping and forgotten about.

Ready made marks.

so for the past couple of days, when not watching men in Lycra zooming around the French countryside on bikes, I’ve been mark making in or for the book.

I am particularly fond of the sloppy black stitches on a sheer page in the top two imaimageges.

The cloth has not been entirely neglected – although as all these marks overlap I cannot decide how many marks it actually comprises. I am very reluctant to admit accept that it is only one, as far too much effort went into it!

Monday 4 July 2011

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

I mentioned yesterday that I was overdyeing some nasty pieces of hand dye, in an attempt to make them less nasty. All of them, together, at the same time. You may not believe this when you see how they came out.

I used some Dylon ‘Jeans Blue’ machine dye because:

  1. I have a theory that you can overdye any colour with blue and
  2. it was all I had…

My theory was that anything which was mostly white would end up blue – and that’s what happened.


These were white with purple or blue splotches on them – so now I've got blue with darker purple and blue splotches. Not brilliant, but better than they were – they are actually a bit darker than in the photo.

The second group date from my Kandinsky period, when I was dyeing saturated multi-colour pieces to make my version of this for City and Guilds. I had a lot of fabric left over and while it looked OK in small pieces, overall it was a bit too bright. Not to mention clashing.image

The one on the right is silk velvet which I didn't want to bin if I could help it, which is why I decided to try the overdyeing.

This photo is reasonably accurate,unlike the others. Reasonably accurate apart from the one in the middle which does not have a big dark blob on it. [It is supposedly silk, from a charity shop blouse – but given how little dye it’s taken, I suspect there’s more than a little polyester in there as well.]

The silk velvet is much more interesting than it looks here – a deep green with undertones of other colours. Yes, green. No, it wasn’t mostly yellow before.

The final group were either:

  1. ‘last batch of the day’ pieces, odd bits of fabric bunged in a bucket with the remnants of dye poured over – for some reason these almost always end up reddy-orange.
  2. some underwhelming snow dyeing which was light green and pink.

My assumption, based on colour theory, was that if I overdyed orangey red or red with blue, I'd get purple – or at the worst, brown.

Definitely not green. [They are a lot darker and greener than in the photo.]


The one in the middle is about right, the others are completely misleading – like a cross between how they really look now and how they looked before I dyed them.

But I’d rather have green than brown, so I’m not unhappy, just perplexed – about the failure of colour theory - presumably this particular dye blend has a lot of green in it - and why my camera wants to take pictures of something that doesn’t exist.


Sunday 3 July 2011

The plan for this weekend was

  1. Saturday: take down exhibition, relax. image
  2. Sunday: a little drawing, some SAM, some photoshopping, perhaps a bit of Tour-de-France watching - relax.image

The second part of number 1 was scuppered by a welcome but unexpected visit from Babybel, on her way home from Peppa Pig World. I think she was quite tired after all the excitement, but she hasn’t grasped the concept of relaxation, and after a drink and a spell brushing her toy dog, it was back to garden running, football kicking, drawing, being read to [‘Again!’], and, of course, non-stop talking. Fun, but not quite what we’d planned.

This morning, I went to look for a scrap of Aida because I had the idea of adding a cross stitch monogram to the mark cloth.

Could I find my embroidery fabric? Course not.

So I started at the bottom of the stash cupboard, pulling out boxes, bags and baskets, vaccing the floor when I found it, looking through everything.

Before long it had turned into a full-scale sort out. I had been telling myself [and Wensleydale] that I was going to sort out the workroom this summer, but it was more of an aspiration than a commitment. I certainly didn’t intend to do any of it quite yet.

But – the dustbin has been filled, two boxes are empty, things have been put away that have been un-put away for months, the nastiest bits of hand-dye are in the washing machine getting a blue overdye in the hope that will make them less nasty -and I feel very virtuous.

Plus I found the Aida. In fact I remembered where it was before I finished sorting what was on the floor [on the top shelf in a bag], but decided to carry on and finish the job.

Of course the Aida needs ironing, and that is a task too far, so I’ll have to find a different mark to make tonight.

I have come to the conclusion that I do have  a very great deal of – far too much fabric. Does anyone have any good ideas about how to use up a lot of fabric you once thought would come in useful but it hasn't? Apart from giving it away, which I can’t yet bring myself to do.