Monday, 30 April 2012

Biro Drawings inspired by Boetti

On Saturday after lunch at the Level 7 Restaurant at Tate Modern went to see the Boetti exhibition. Amazing embroideries of maps but the  monumental  biro drawings (below)" bringing the World into the world"  like indigo ikat weavings were what drew me back to make notes. I had my own attempt ( above) on a much smaller scale and  apart from trying to work out the process , it  brought  further questions (again) about personal mark making.

Questions about the process  jotted down in my sketchbook :
Does direction matter (up and down or side to side?)
How far the lines overlap?
Taking the pen off the paper or scribbling?
where do you start and finish?
Brand/ size of pen ? size of pen 'nib'
How you hold the pen?
Pressure of the pen?
Speed of drawing?
How long you spend in one session?
Quality/texture  of the paper?
What's underneath the paper ?
Drawing guidelines - is there a plan?
Retracing steps, going over sections/

This last one made me think of the 'unknown draughtspeople' who actually did the work . Theirs were the individual marks that  brought variation to the work but remain unacknowledged. What did these assistants  think of  what they were drawing?
Likewise the skilled women embroiderers whose work was organised  by male Afghan associates of Boetti , first in Afghanistan then Pakistan . Wonderful stitch mark-making particularly in the seas of the maps. 
Who is the artist- the designer or the person who executes it?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tate Modern Birthday Treats

Staircase iii Do Ho Su

A day at Tate Modern for my birthday yesterday - mainly for the Boetti exhibition that Margaret highlighted but with other treats besides.
After a walk across the 'wobbly bridge' from St Pauls with views of the 'Shard' with its top among the clouds we had a quick look round  a display from the collections 'Energy and Process'. This included a whole room devoted to this installation of a staircase of polyester fabric and wire suspended from the ceiling. Wonderful attention to detail , even the banisters and light switches, it made me think of pojagi.

Then up to the 7th floor with it's amazing views  for lunch in the restaurant. Not cheap but good value for the quality and elegance - it was nice to pair different wines with each course. The 'stickie' of Muscat  that tasted of treacle toffee and coffee went wonderfully with my custard dessert  and Ian said the cheeseboard was the best he's ever had (and he's had a few!)

 Ian has obviously been around quilters too long. While looking around the 'Energy and Process' display in the section for 'Arte Povera' he asked me whether I'd seen the sculpture of a quilter so absorbed looking through  her stash she's forgotten to get dressed....
Venus of the Rags -Michealangelo Pistoletto 

Friday, 27 April 2012


Hardly the best birthday present - I've just heard my entry for CQ@10  'Indigo Mine' has been rejected. While stressing that mainly dictated by the wall space available  and not a reflection of the quality of the work,  I was not comfortable having to  work from someone elses image and that is probably reflected in  this piece. 

Maybe I was too honest in my artists statement about the struggle I had, maybe the sample (above) wasn't up to scratch. Maybe it was too blue!
I hope for better success with my other indigo pieces.

UPDATE - there were only 23 selected from 61 entries so I don't feel so bad now to be part of the majority not accepted. I  had just enough notice to fill in an entry form for Small Wall Hanging Category at Sandown  quilt show in June so at least it will be seen somewhere!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Distressed Doors - Sketchbook Project Limited Edition Thread and Surface.

 I signed up for the 'Sketchbook Project Limited Edition' a long time ago ( how could I resist the 'Thread and Surface' theme! ) but as usual am only just going to make the deadline of 30 April!
 It was the same Sketchbook as for the Sketchbook 2012 project but I used a rather different approach, constructing complete sheets first ( front and back of same sheet illustrated here) and then  sewing them together into  a book.
Taking 'distressed doors' as my title, it was constructed from used 'colour catchers', treated with either inkaid or Golden Digital Ground and inkjet printed photos. I joined them together with connecting strips of  non-printed colour catchers uisng zig-zag and then stitched them by machine using Madeira Polyneon thread. A different effect to hand stitching paper but still effective.
 I scanned in all the sheets before I sewed the book together so if I wished I could construct a replica - of all the sketchbooks so far this is my favourite. I've also got a few spare sheets that didn't make the final  version. I love the backs almost more than the fronts  and I like how different it looks when bound - unexpected juxtapositions of shapes and colour.

I used this image for my 'textile news' small format quilt ( and it features as 'October' in the Bernina Calendar but it looks quite different in this context.
I might construct another sketchbook on a different theme - this exercise has made no impression on my colour catcher stash!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Budapest Museum of Applied Arts

Having visited many of the sights of Budapest on a previous stay, during my free morning before catching  the plane I concentrated on the area close to my hotel which included the Museum of Aplied Arts
The building itself is the star, with spectacular ceramic roof tiles and a 'mooresque' interior modeled on the Alhambra , Granada
I'd seen a  couple of the programmes about Art Noveau on BBC4 and they had some lovely examples of glass and furniture displayed . Not sure it justified the 10 Euro entrance fee but then I'm spoilt by the V&A  and free entry to exhibitions with my staff pass!

Budapest Natural History Museum

Just back from a bryophyte conservation conference in Budapest, hosted by the Hungarian Natural history Museum. The roof of the entrance is amazing, taking as it's inspiration the huge skeleton of a whale that is suspended beneath.
Other displays were equally imaginative -  showcasing biodiversity in a replica of the ark (entering up a ramp alongside pairs of stuffed animals!) Good to see mosses nicely displayed too!
During the lectures, I was rather taken with the movable screens/ dividers suggestive of landscapes/rock forms. I thought at first they were painted but actually they were a knitted fabric ( and fabric of a similar design but on a smaller scale was used to upholster the chairs)
The 'gala dinner' also took place in the museum  in the evening- excellent food, and wine supplied  by colleagues from Eger ,( slightly sore head the following day from too much 'Bulls Blood'). I was in Eger for a conservation conference 6 years ago which included a wine tasting so it was good to  requaint myself with 'little princess' - the only white wine (apart from cava) that I like .

A dizzying display of dancing too, lots of swirling , stamping and slapping of boots.  I did shoot some viedeo clips - will replace this photo with one when I work out how....)

Monday, 16 April 2012

CQ AGM - Elizabeth Brimelow

 Elizabeth Brimelow- Devon Red (detail)
 Elizabeth Brimelow - Winter Wheat (detail)
Elizabeth Brimelow -Fen

 Elizabeth Brimelow- Shingle  1 & 2
Elizabeth Brimelow - Elseworth

A wonderful day on Saturday based around Contemporary Quilt AGM . An early start (8.30!) meeting Sue for breakfast at Cafe Freddo (excellent coffee); some retail therapy at Muji and Paperchase; catching up with friends and seeing all the JQ's on display; work of Mathew Harris at CAA on the way home. Most of all it was a privilege to hear Elizabeth Brimelow talk about her  quilts ; to look through her sketchbooks and  handle her  quilts (images here are from Quilt Art   website and Quilt National Catalogues).
I   was stunned by her work when I last heard her speak at a  'Celebrity Quilt Lecture'  many years ago, with her emphasis on drawing, drawing , drawing but  have even more of an appreciation now as her work has grown and developed even further. 
Lots to think about:
-  being adamant  she is  a quiltmaker not a textile artist
- art as an expression of self with the message recognised by the viewer, a 2 way process.
- cloth itself adding another dimension , not just the medium on which an image is placed
- making the most of the tactile qualities of cloth (especially wool) , its  drape and  bias
- horizon lines
- the importance of edges
- variety of hand stitches - knots, tufts, ends carefully left
- looking  for the marks that keep making, making drawings of drawings , monoprints
- both sides are equally important, they make an integrated cloth 

Hilary introduced me to Elizabeth as both having quilts in 'acCent' exhibition in Paducah - she was so kind and gracious but although my work may hang beside hers I've a very, very long way to go. 
Sometimes when you  see and hear about the work of someone of Elizabeth's stature, you want to give up as you would never achieve anything like as good. Perhaps it was because she was talking so much about process but I didn't feel like giving up , instead  she has inspired me to get back to my sketchbooks and draw and draw and try and see what my unique marks are

Friday, 13 April 2012

Passing on Liebster Blog Award

Sandra van Velzen ' Rowing in the Morning'

It's not just the series of boats that she's been working on that draws me to  the work of Sandra van Velzen although I love the way she works with photographs, paints , hand dyed fabric and  dense stitching to create atmospheric pieces based on landscapes and  ideas that are important to her.
We met at a SAQA  event at the Festival of Quilts and have maintained the connection, making comments on each others blogs. So it seems appropriate to  pass on the 'Liebster Blog award' I received  from  Uta Lenk  to Sandra, who like Uta, also writes her  blog in 2 languages; in Sandra's case Dutch and English. Apart from  opening a window on art quilts in the Netherlands,  the main reason I  read Sandra's  blog  is for her vivid descriptions of the process of making art: showing work at different stages; asking questions; sharing  her  doubts and celebrating  the successes along the way.   

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Blog Award Recipient

I had an email from Uta Lenk a few weeks ago asking whether I'd mind if she nominated me for a 'Liebster Blog Award' for a small blog (less than 200 followers . Although I'm not normally a fan of these chain tags I was honoured to accept. 

 As Uta has  written, we were both featured in this issue of Patchwork Professional (as was Kathy Loomis who nominated Uta for the award!) I just love  Uta's use of colour (see below, more on her website )  and feel privileged to be part of such company. 

Having filled 2 criteria of the award - posting the logo and a link to Uta's blog ( her site has been on my bloglist for a while anyway), I'm thinking who might appreciate being nominated.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Traditions

I'm feeling rather smug about how my summer pudding turned out - not only did it come out of the bowl neatly and in one piece but it's delicious! We're thinking of  making it an Easter tradition ( along with the ritual slaughter of chocolate bunnies  seen here blending in with the ornaments, thinking we won't notice them!) 

We  don't have such a good track record with Good Friday's - a couple of years ago it was the rat in the conservatory , this year it was a plumbing emergency. I was changing the cistern inlet in the toilet when Ian reported water coming through the ceiling below! Luckily  I found a plumber very locally who was able to come out in minutes. It was just as well - it turned out that the  existing inlet had the wrong kind of valve in it (for mains not gravity fed) and that the  stopcock didn't actually work! He also showed us how to switch off the water outside the property.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hardly Hockney!

At last , on Thursday we finally made it to the Hockney exhibition - well worth the anticipation. The queues were still snaking around the courtyard as we left at 9.30 and it was very crowded but as the work is generally large, we had no problem seeing and there was a real buzz and sense of participation. We spent over 20 mins enthralled  in the film gallery, not only by the landscape shots  but the dance sequence which came as a surprise ( and met with applause when completed!) But mainly  I was  his draughtsmanship,  mark making and use of colour.
I'd seen his watercolours 'Hand, Eye, Heart' several years ago at Somerset House and it was great to see them again with their equivalent in oils. He really is master of observation  and in the 'trees and totems' gallery it was wonderful to see his beautiful charcoal drawings alongside the large scale, more abstracted paintings derived from them.
I was less excited by his ipad drawings than I thought I would be - while very skillful , the marks were very mechanical in comparison to  even a simple pencil line  where different pressure can give varying width and depth.
On the tube coming home however I did experiment again  with 'paint pad' on my Nokia phone - only 48 colours, 3 pen sizes and spray can and an eraser, it works best colouring in existing photos(these are from Weymouth) .
When I was talking about ipads as a sketchbook alternative with Ian, he pointed out that as my normal sketchbooks are  much smaller (A5 or A6) I probably would get very limited use out it.

At work before I left for the Hockney exhibition we had a demonstration of a new camera for our Leica binocular microscope - when we were upgraded from windows 2000 (!) to Windows 7 it was too much of a leap for our existing one so we've been without a camera for nearly a year . At last I can take  decent pictures of my mosses. Technology having advance, one of the features  of the software is being able to combine up to 10 shots at different focal points into one image. So instead of having this photo of Weissia where the tips are in focus but the background is  blurred, I'll be able to take photos where everything is pin sharp and almost 3D. Now that really is cool! 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Piecing Waves

A busy week at work while others were away; a weekend of travelling, visiting Ian's parents; 2 hours of calming sewing, stitching curved inserts of  Chinese indigo shibori  into sections of hand dyed arashi shibori, drawing waves in fabric, wondering how it will all fit together.