Friday, 28 September 2012

Sea Edges

I don't normally take this long over a quilt.  This one took just over a year.  It began with a workshop with Jo Budd on monoprinting and collage and a sketchbook full of drawings paintings and photographs of various bits of the Northumberland coast in the north-east of England, up against the Scottish border, an area of warm welcomes, windy deserted beaches, abbeys and castles, seabird colonies, farms boats and inshore fishing, saints and wildlife: my favourite part of the country.

My monoprints were of the organic rather than formally-patterned kind, sort of messy but deliberately so.  Organising them into a collages (including layering with organzas and chiffons) was a lengthy process, from here:

to here:
over a period of about three weeks.  Simply pinning on a design wall, moving elements around until they appeared to balance.  I discovered that the striped bits (originally greyscale samples) were essential to give the piece a bit of structure.  The fabrics chosen were ones which suggested the colours and weathering of the coastal landscape.
The rest was about the quilting.  Though I'd originally planned it as a machine-quilted piece I found that certain areas needed hand-quilting, and it was this that took the time - a mediatative process that meant the quilt evolved slowly (my hand won't let me hand-stitch for too long at a time) and developed in unexpected ways.

The end result (above) combines areas of texture with areas where stitching has been used as a medium for drawing - close-ups below:


Sunday, 24 June 2012

At the end of our street...

...about twenty-five minutes ago.  Not the greatest photograph in the world  - the torch relay was running late and he was going pretty fast, plus people were jumping up and down in front of me most of the I was still recovering from cleaning the oven!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

just a taste...

...of what I did this weekend.  More to follow

Sunday, 6 May 2012

From the Salon des Refuses

The Contemporary Quilt Group, of which I am a member, has an exhibition at Festival of Quilts this year and I was one of the sixty-plus members who entered a quilt.  Unfortunately I was one of the ones whose work didn't get chosen.  I did discover however that I am in excellent company: people who have produced much better pieces than I did also didn't get their work chosen.  I suspect the standard of the exhibition will be extremely high.

The theme of the exhibition was Tin and the starting-point was a photograph by Tony Howell of East Pool Tin Mine, a restored tin mine in Cornwall.  A comment by an historian friend about Cornish miners who had migrated to the north of England being known as "Cousin Jacks" led me into spending some time doing historical research of my own, and being deeply moved by the way in which the closure of the mines in Cornwall in the nineteenth century led to mass migration and emigration from the county - a quarter of a million men, mainly miners, emigrated between 1841 and 1901; whole villages could disappear from the census in a ten-year period; there was a twenty percent reduction in the male population in each ten-year period between those years.  At the beginning of the twentieth century the total population - male and female, including children - was less than half a million.  "Cousin Jacks" took their skills to the far corners of the world - including North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. There's a saying: "A mine is a hole in the ground, anywhere in the world, with at least one Cornishman at the bottom of it", and to this day people all over the world celebrate their Cornish ancestry.

I suppose one of the reasons for my response is that I come, a couple of generations back, from a mining family myself.  Not Cornwall, but South Wales, and there and in parts of Yorkshire I have seen the effects of pit closures on local communities - not as devastating or dramatic as in nineteenth century Cornwall, but still a sense of the lifeblood draining out of the community when the mines close.

This became the basis of the quilt above.  Unfortunately, though there is a thematic link to the original photograph, the visual links to it have mostly disappeared - it seemed appropriate to use a ruined mine rather than a restored mine as the main image and the only bit of the photograph I've actually been able to use is the texture of the stone.  So yes  I would acknowledge that it may not have fulfilled the criterion of having a specific (i.e. visual) reference to the original image.  The jurors also felt that there were some pieces where an interest in the history had taken over rather than the consideration of the visual impact of the piece, and I accept this criticism too.

My personal feelings about this piece is that there are things in it that I like but also things that are unresolved.  I think I distracted myself with two things: firstly the attempt to convey a message visually, which is a very difficult thing to do and which I don't think worked out effectively (I have a tendency to believe that a piece of work should be able to communicate independently of artists statements or footnotes) and secondly the decision to include a "picture", however simplified.

It has not been wasted: I learnt a great deal from doing it.  And I do like the lettering (dyed fabric hand-painted with discharge paste), the story of the "Cousin Jacks" half hidden behind the image, and covered with layers of silk organza.

Only problem is - what do I do with it now?  It is a somewhat bleak image, not one that fits easily on the walls of my home!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Really Good Day - with Wonky Bits!

Saturday was the latest meeting of Contemporary Quilt Region 14, a workshop with tutor Janet Bottomley on Liberated Piecing.  One of the best workshops I've ever been to - loads of fun, excellent teaching, and plenty of ideas for future projects (just need the time to make them now).  You can find out more about Janet from her blogs:  A Quilters Journal  (her personal blog), her City and Guilds/Contemporary Quilt blog, and her teaching blog.  For anyone involved in running a quilting group she would be an excellent choice for a workshop that could appeal to both traditional and contemporary quilters.

For those who, like me, were unclear about the difference between liberated and improvisational quilting, liberated quilting involves putting together traditional blocks in a non-traditional way, with a minimum of measuring, as in much African American quilting.  Improvisational or freeform quilting doesn't use blocks.

Below are some of the samples Janet brought, and you can see a corner of one of her quilts above (I wish I'd taken more photographs, but you can see more of Janet's work on her blogs.  I especially love her use of bright colours and fresh-looking fabrics, in particular her use of stripes - the blue quilt just peeping out in the picture above is particularly good.

 Anyway we were quickly on with the first blocks - stars and square in a square (occasionally pausing to flick through the books Janet brought)

and by lunchtime we'd completed our first blocks.  Being an adventurous group we soon discovered how to make things wonky, adapt and experiment with the techniques, and have lots of fun playing.

And - probably Janet's influence - there was a lot of orange about.  And some really nice fabrics, as in Lesley's beautifully wonky star.  

In the afternoon we experimented with asterix blocks, hash signs, and wonky houses and trees, but I got so caught up in the process I forgot to take photographs.

And we all went home grinning from ear to ear, with a new challenge - to use the techniques in our own pieces to be revealed at the next meeting.  Watch this space!

Thursday, 23 February 2012


I'm not sure how I got here, but at present I am unable to use any of the links from my blog. I keep getting an error message that says:
ERROR: Possible problems with your *.gwt.xml.module file. The complete time user.agent value (ie9) does not match the runtime user.agent value (ie8). Expect more errors.

I managed to post this - if it does post - through Blog this! on a Google search - I am unable to link to dashboard or new post from my blog itself.

I have posted a query on a link from the help-page but have not had any reply: is there any way of contacting Blogger direct rather than a user-list? Does anyone out there know what I can do?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Collages Part Two

More collages from last autumn - this time from an A5 sketchbook: the first two use ink drawings of beetles from the Leeds City Museums collection. Top - cut-out beetle on paper rubbed with soft pastel, plus paper coated with oil pastel, then indian ink, scratched and rubbed back; bottom one uses paper printed with iridescent paint, bought textured paper and paper monoprinted with lacy pattern from an almost exhausted marbling tray.

Above - wet-on-wet watercolour paper, wet-on-dry paper, plus monoprinted paper.

Two more using marbled papers.  Above - three different cut marbled papers, plus coloured pencil lines.  Below: oil-marbled paper with added pale water-colour and wet watercolour pencil lines plus translucent blue tracing-paper overlay.

Two using photoshopped photograph prints plus cut watercoloured paper and (in the bottom one) torn sugar-paper.

Top: monoprinted and marbled papers.  Bottom: scrunch-dyed tissue paper, bits of linoprint sampler, and watercolour "bullseye".

Many thanks for the comments on the earlier ones, and - yes - they are feeding into my quilting.  Plus being fun, and a good way of exploring composition.  All done very quickly as a sort of creative "starter" for the day.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


 During the autumn last year I played with simple one-a-day collages, allowing approximately ten minutes for each.  They used papers and prints I already had made at various times, and much of the focus was an exploration of composition:

 monoprinted and blockprinted white and coloured papers;

 wet-on-wet watercolour on hand-made paper; wet-on-dry on cartridge paper

oil-marbled and freely cut watercoloured cartridge paper (above and below)

inked pages from an old falling-apart guide, marbled paper, watercoloured paper, blue tracing-paper;

cut monoprint;

and cuts from the same monoprint with layered coloured tissue-paper.

I also filled two other sketchbooks, in different shapes (of which more later)  Lots of fun - and I learnt a lot too!