Thursday, 20 December 2007

Psi and Theta Votive Figures

When I was sorting through photos taken during the year to include in our annual Xmas letter, I came across these images of figurines taken in the museum at Mycenae. Being surrounded by Henry Moore's monumental work these last few months I looked at these with fresh eyes, appreciating their form, character and individuality ( on a diminutive scale) . The meaning and function of these votive figures (named Psi and Theta forms after the Greek letters they resemble) can only be guessed at.
This will the last post of 2007 - off to Iran later in the day for 2 weeks holiday. No doubt I'll have some interesting photos to share in the New Year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


I don't know where the time has gone in the last couple of weeks since I last posted. Evenings and weekends have been devoted to writing the Xmas letter and cards and sorting out the packing for Iran ( according to the BBC weather website, temperatures may vary from -3C in Tehran to 18 C in Shiraz - as I'll be covered in a 'manteau' , it'll be a a bit trickier than normal to adjust the layers).
Its also been exceptionally busy at work with VIP visitors, interviewing for 2008/9 Sandwich Student and meeting to discuss progress on the Hardy Orchid Book. This is the follow-up to 'Growing Orchids From Seed' which has been selling well and is about to be translated into Spanish and Chinese!
The opportunities for finishing my December Journal Quilt are fast diminishing - I may well have to substitute one of the 'Moore' pieces I was less happy with. After doing so well over the year despite moving etc, I'd hate to drop out at the last minute.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The Challenge of Colour Matching Indigo

Detail of seed stitching

November Journal Quilt 'Indigo Two forms'

A few posts ago I asked for suggestions on how to stitch the photo of Henry Moore's '2 forms' that I'd printed on Indigo fabric. I decided 'Less is More' ( sorry couldn't resist the pun) and used seed stitching in the background , leaving the sculpture itself unstitched. I was pleased with the very subtle results but ran into problems taking an accurate photo for posting this as my November Journal Quilt.
At the moment my computer is not recognising my scanner ( the result I think of deleting a demo version of music scanning software I tried for choir practice). I photographed it instead and then used Photoshop to adjust the lighting levels, contrast etc.
It was actually very difficult to obtain a realistic image - both getting a match for the hue of indigo and also the intensity. In the end the photo is lighter than the quilt is in reality otherwise you'd never see the stitching at the bottom. When I tried to print it ( on coated paper which usually gives good results) , the blue was a very crude match - some more work to do here I think.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Medieval Tile Quilt

Searching for a photo of my Medieval Tile quilt , I realised I only had a scanned slide - I really need to take some decent digital images, particularly of the detail.

It started off with a visit to the British Museum in early 1980's where the display of Medieval Tiles caught my eye. How often do you see something in a museum and they don't have even a postcard of the items you're interested in. This time I was lucky, they even had a book! I also got a Dover book of tile patterns as a Christmas present.

The central panels I did as batik at a workshop with Ann Dyer at Westhope College
using glass pasteur pippettes from work for applying the wax. I assembled a huge collection of brown and cream fabrics , a lot of them from my mothers stash ( mainly collected by me from jumble sales - long before I was interested in quilting I had an eye for cottons) and pieced the top on my old hand operated Singer.
The following year (1988) I made the 'sandwich' stabbing the quilt top with long pins to my bedroom carpet. Quilting (by hand) took another 5 years helped out by a present from my Dad of a quilting frame. I made over 40 different quilting stencils and my stitching was tiny
Funnily enough, I've never done another double sized quilt until recently (and that I'm having 'longarm' quilted) and I haven't used browns that much since either.
I'm still very proud of it and can't quite believe that I had the patience to work on it for 7 years.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Rochester Cathedral Inspiration, update on house and what I received in the post.

While I'm waiting for the electrician I thought I'd show some of the highlights from Rochester Cathedral (for me anyway) when we went a couple of weeks ago to see Cas homes 'Traces' installation. Along with many quilters, I have a fondness for old tiles and made a double sized bed quilt based on medieval tiles from the British Museum. It took me 7 years! Perhaps I'll put a picture of it up for my next post.
The house is gradually coming together - yesterday the carpet-layer and the plumber were in action, today the last of the electrical work. The scaffolding was also removed but as it had to be carried through the house and no dust sheets were available, the carpet is a mess!! Steve the boss came to look at this morning and has agreed to split the cost on cleaning. This weekend will be spent on shifting boxes yet again so that another room can be carpeted and on putting up curtains . An Ikea trip might be in order to buy some blinds.
Gilbert sent me the lost partner of my bee earrings by special delivery - I think he realised soon after I'd left the show as the parcel crossed in the post with my letter, so not lost after all!! In the same post were our passports with visas for Iran. I had to have a photo taken specially for it with a headscarf on (the photo booth kept telling me it wasn't suitable for a passport as hair was covered-I know). It looks even worse as a photocopy in the visa, especially with some strange blue blotches on. Not one to share I think.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

World Record for Lost Earring

Had a busy but productive weekend : visiting the farmers Market ( leg of lamb currently roasting-yum); buying set of 3 phones so we have a chance of answering one before caller rings off ;excellent pork chops at The Fox with Sue and Peter (thanks to Independent Vouchers ) ; ordering a new sofa from Sofa Workshop (Carrie in Cranberry) and cleaning up some of the mess from the builders - painters finished on Friday but still other work to be finished off.
As a treat visited British Crafts show at Chiswick Town Hall , lots of nice things to admire and Ian bought me a lovely pair of earrings from Gilbert Macmanus - reticulated oxidised silver bees with freshwater pearls. Being near the end of the day and probably his last customers we had an interesting conversation about gardens, allotments and composting.
Alas when we got home , there was only 1 earring in the box....... - whether it was left on the stand or lost at the bus stop I don't know.
I shall ring Gilbert tomorrow - I've bought earrings from him before and he was very good at making a replacement set for a pair I lost/was stolen in Greece. I must say I've never lost an earring quite so quickly before!! Ian has said he will pay for a repalcement bee - what an understanding husband I have.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Traces in Rochester

Traces by Cas Holmes

Had a expedition to Rochester on Saturday with Sue, Peter and Ian to see an exhibition/installation of work by Cas Holmes in Rochester Cathedral and Art Gallery. Many of her pieces incorporated the bright colours and motifs experienced on an Indian exchange visit.
Sue and I did a mixed media class with Cas in July at the Cowslip Workshops in Launceston, a busy 3 days of sunprinting, monoprinting, momogami, printing, painting and stitching on paper and fabric. In the exhibition were a couple of pieces based on Marigolds that Cas was working on during the workshop, using them to demonstrate techniques -it was interesting to see how they had developed. We had also forgotten just how complex her pieces are , with layers and layers of fabrics and papers stitched into and peeled back and rubbings of woodblocks.

Marigold by Cas Holmes

In the crypt, displayed against the stained glass windows, there was also a couple of evocative pieces made collaboratively with a community group using recycled Remembrance Day poppies trapped in tea bag paper , with rubbings of war memorials.

We finished the day at the largest secondhand bookshop in Europe - I bought a 1963 book on TieDye with very clear diagrams of shibori techniques. Ian shocked us by buying nothing!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Reclining Figure

This reclining figure was the first of the Henry Moore sculptures to arrive at Kew. It was quite a sight to see it installed and it certainly has an initial impact being placed with the Palm House behind. It doesn't have the same wow factor to me as the bronzes (I love their texture and colour)

I used 'invert' in Photoshop to swap the tones round - it looks more monumental in greys than white but the background isn't so interesting

As a change, for this 'Mini-Moore' I printed on blue grey background and stitched around the shape rather than within - when you see the sculpture you're very aware of the texture of the background as in itself it is so smooth.

The builders are accelerating their pace - Ian and I had to move the furniture from one room to another yesterday evening so they could strip the wallpaper today. Sofa wrestling is not my idea of a fun time

Sunday, 11 November 2007

How Shall I Stitch This?

I've been using Photoshop to desaturate some of the photos of 'Large 2 Forms' sculpture and then printing on bubble jetset soaked pieces of indigo fabric with some very interesting effects.
I'm wondering now how to stitch it. I'd initially thought of following the contours of the sculpture but I think it requires a more delicate approach. Maybe seed stitching the background?

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Moore Monochrome

Finally feel I'm getting somewhere in my 'Mini- Moore' pieces. The difficulties are in transfering something of the quality of the solidity and multi faceted nature of the sculptures into a 2-dimensional form. Simplicity is the key. I've been looking at the drawings of Henry Moore to see how he tackled it - the next challenge I think is looking at line and shading in stitch to suggest form

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Autumn Colour at Kew

A lovely sunny crisp Sunday - Ian and I went to Kew to have a proper look at the sculptures ( after lunch at the Greyhound). The gardens were heaving with people - initially when you're trying to take good photos it was a bit annoying when people got in the way but gradually you accept it and then enjoy their enthusiasm. Children in particular are irrestistably drawn to climb (its not allowed) and pat and stroke and run through the larger ones . The autumn colour is spectacular and really compliments the bronzes

Sunday, 28 October 2007


Photo - approaching through the 'Siq'

Watercolour of the Urn and Silk Tombs (painted on site)

Watercolour of the Treasury (from photograph)

Finished Quilt (60 x 60 cm)
Petra is one of those places that despite the increased tourism and associated kitsch lives up to all the hype. I visited Xmas 2001 and had 2 days there - the first with a guide , the 2nd free to wander. As we approached the Treasury through the 'Siq' we were told to close our eyes for the last few metres- corny but the impact on looking for the first time was tremendous. 2 days gave the opportunity to explore the huge site (including climbing up for a birds-eye view), see structures in different lights and paint quite a few watercolours ( although those unwordly colours are difficult to capture)
For quite a while on my return I had the sketches and a rough layout ( with fabric swatches) for a long thin quilt pinned up on my design wall. Then there was a call for entries for 'Poetry in Stitches', textile pieces 60 x 60 cm interpreting poems in a booklet ' Poems in the Waiting Room' to be displayed in hospital waiting rooms . One of the poems was 'Petra' with that well-known quote ' a rose-red city half as old as time' - a challenge to rethink a long thin quilt into a square one!
I decided to do it as a combination of 2 views , the walk through the Siq and a close-up of the treasury. The 'Siq' side was constructed from painted 'shot' silk taffeta with strips of different purple fabrics applied over the top. The 'Treasury' side was a photo printed over 3 A4 pieces of organza ( quite tricky to match up) laid over different coloured silks and cut back in places and quite heavily quilted. In the flesh (if you can call it that!) the treasury really seems to glow - the effect of having the bright silk shining through the organza.
That was 2 years ago - its since been exhibited at several shows and galleries, featured in the book associated with the project but for the last few months its been in Kingston hospital shortly to be returned. Now I'm planning my next Poetry in Stitches piece- 'Giant'
Taking of structures ( rather a tenuous link this), half of the scaffolding is now up. The scaffolders were supposed to come on Saturday afternoon and we waited in but they never turned up. On Sunday when we returned from our outing for Sunday lunch to the Lord Nelson (excellent organic roasts) and light buying expedition to B&Q , there was scaffolding up on the front of the house! As we weren't in, they couldn't take it through the house to the back so goodness knows when they'll be back again.

Friday, 26 October 2007


Continuing in the 'Moore' vein, I've been thinking about possible ideas for a possible ' Poetry in Stitches' submission (I'll write more aboout my previous entry 'Petra' in another post I think)
Among the poems to choose from is one called 'Giant' which describes a Henry Moore Madonna striding over the landscape.
I've taken several photos of the sculpture 'Large standing figure:knife edge' and playing with opacity in Photoshop, have superimposed the image over a quilt I made a few years ago based on Devon fields. I think it has possibilities - the decision is whether to make a landscape from scratch or to cannibalise the original quilt which I'm not totally happy with. The figure I think I would construct from metallic organza - it would probably be too dominant in opaque fabric

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Front Room Archeology

The Builders have started! We had a very busy weekend decanting the contents of front reception to rear reception (computers and bookshelves) and front bedroom to rear bedroom ( all my stash , art and sewing equipment) and chopping back plants so the scaffolding can be erected. No sewing for a while - at least by machine.
The decorators arrived at 7.30 ( some early mornings ahead and as I'm not a morning person, making decisions could be a bit painful). When I returned in the evening they'd been very busy removing the dado rail and stripping off the ghastly wallpaper. The effect was of some ancient excavation of frescos - you could see the lines where both the most recent dado rail and the original must have been and scraps of different paints( yellow, turqoise , purple). I quite like the 'distressed' look but Ian was rather depressed by it.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Double Oval - focus on marks

Yet another attempt at interpreting the 'Double Oval'. This time pieced curves of kimono fabric before and after the FoQ shibori dye-bath with indigo fabric for sky. I was attempting to capture the scratches and marks on the bronze scupltures with stitches in variagated cotton perle and metallic thread. I appliqued some bronze lame fabric to give some textural variety - it works better in the flesh than in photos but even so probably better without. I need to work more on the irregularity of my stitches! The next step I think is to concentrate on shapes and stitching directly onto plainish fabric with colour/ metallics paints applied after.

As I left work fairly early, I took more photos in the late afternoon light of some different sculptures, focusing on figures this time.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Another Dose of Double Oval

Acrylic Ink added to darken some areas

Another attempt at a multiple view of Henry Moore's 'Double Oval', this time overlaid with photo printed on organza of Chilterns farmland with hills in the distance ( thus Moore in the landscape). Lots of quilting to emphasise the curves of the sculpture and the furrows in the fields. After some painting with sepia acrylic ink to darken some areas , I'm satisfied enough to call this my September Journal Quilt.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Childhood Dresses

In between working on various Henry Moore inspired Journal Quilts, I've been sorting through some of my fabric stash, particularly the fabrics acquired from Jumble Sales and Charity shops mainly in the form of clothing , deciding whether to bin, keep , return to charity shop or pass on to other quilters. A quite productive activity when concentration and inspiration are in short supply due to a stinking cold.
Among the fabrics are several bits of old dresses or remnants with dress shaped holes in them. My mum made all my dresses and I learnt to appreciate fabrics at an early age ( and had strong opinions too - no spriggy florals )
The dress made from the blue daisy fabric was sleeveless with a long zipper down the front with a wonderful pendant style bobble pull on it. I wore it with red or yellow socks ( I could never keep white socks clean for more than 5 minutes - still have that problem with white clothes! )
The mustard fabric from the early 70's (can't you tell!) was made into a long sleeved winter dress worn with lacy tights and black patent shoes.
I've not used them for patchwork so far as particularly the mustard one doesn't really go with anything . Looking at it afresh after several years, I'm now thinking it might work well with some of my African fabrics, particularly with quilting and overpainting with acrylics. I'm sure I shall find further samples of even uglier retro fabrics - I feel a challenge coming on.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Double Oval x 4

My first Journal Quilt in a while - I have several on the go at the moment based on the Henry Moore scultures although I'm not sure which will end up as the 'proper' ones.
This one was 4 b&w photos printed on cream linen of 'Double Oval' superimposed with different viewpoints of the same sculpture printed on silk organza. I quilted the outline shapes in both layers but feel overall its too complex , should have concentrated on just a pair of images.
Its been fun though - I've been whirring away on my sewing machine while Ian sleeps off his operation. My few days of being a 'responsible adult' looking after him are coming to an end. As I have a stinking cold, a day in bed is tempting
Hope I can still do the 'Big Draw' at Kew on Saturday, I'm supposed to be helping out with the 'See More' session observing dissected flowers and fruits for a large collaborative drawing.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Photoshop Opacity

Still haven't managed any sewing yet ( 5+ weeks since the move -I'm getting a bit twitchy)
I have however been planning my journal quilts based on the photos I took of some of the Moore sculptures. I took pictures all around the sculptures and am interested in combining multiple viewpoints of the same piece , almost in a cubist approach.
Using Adobe Photoshop 7, I duplicated images and altered their saturation and in some cases hue. I then cut and pasted one image over another and altered the opacity of the layer to reveal the image underneath to varying degrees.
I've done a lot of experimentation in the past layering with opaque poplin and sheer organza -playing with Photoshop gives more subtle variations as can slide the opacity button from
0-100% rather than working always with c. 50%
Looking just at tone with reduced saturation ( black and white ) also has potential.
Must prepare more fabric with 'BubbleJetSet'........

Saturday, 29 September 2007

MatchPot Swatches

Photoshop arrangement of paint swatches

After last weekends' adventure to B&Q, have been testing out the 9 paint samples purchased for dining room, 'parlour' and Ian's office. The surfaces varied from textured wallcovering, stripey moire wallpaper to badly painted silk emulsion - its amazing how different the same colours look especially in varying lights. 'Pumice' looks promising as does 'mint cream' and we're waiting to decide on 'natural stucco' v. 'morning sun' but are both decided 'french mustard' is too firey for our taste.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

More Moore

On my way back from lunch today I walked around the 'Double Oval' taking lots of photos. It changes character, shape and colour when viewed from different angles (the shadows were pretty amazing too). I can see this being the inspiration for several journal quilts - metallic gauzes with stitching and acrylics maybe? I shall track down the other sculptures and try a similar exercise.
I've volunteered to help out at the 'Big Draw' event at Kew on 13 October, hopefully getting a chance to play too!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Grand Union meets Thames

Boatyard at Brentford


Thames looking East

The Grand Union Canal meets the Thames

This weekend was the first visit of Ian's parents to view our new house. Besides admiring the space and light in the property we also explored the area along the canal. Ian had done a reccie in the morning while at the launderette and had discovered a road down to the Thames from the High Street .'Dock Road' leads past some locks and one of the few surviving boatyards down to where the Grand Union Canal meets the Thames. It's great that Brentford still retains some of its original history and function as waterside town despite all the development going on although I understand that the boatyard was under threat. As the area is tidal, its excellent for wildlife too - there were masses of birds on the mud flats.
The combination of brightly coloured industrial site, boats and tranquil waters is irresistible - I'll be back with my sketchbook! Ian felt rather proud of his discovery, knowing I'd like it, and rightly so.