Monday, 31 December 2007

Module 4 and other directions

Back to normal at last after all the Christmas festivities! And what a lovely family time it was too!
Now down to the serious business of the creative direction for 2008. Well! The first thing in the 'to do' pile is the new module in my C&G embroidery Certificate curse, (whoops, a bit of a Freudian slip there!!!) course.
As this one is colour I have high hopes of it being a bit easier going than the last, texture, as colour is probably the first decision I make about a new piece and is often the first thing that sparks my imagination in whatever it is that inspires me.

The first task in this module is to begin 'building a portfolio collection of colour'. The first part of this exercise is to make a 'Colour collection of colour stories'. I hope you're following the gist so far! The idea is to work with the primary colours to start with, (i.e. red, blue, yellow) and explore with the aid of magazine cuttings/photos, fragments or squares that reveal as many of the different shades and tones of these primary colours as possible. These are then to be glued to a backing sheet/sketch book in such a way as to show the story or flow of the above.

As usual it's sometimes quite difficult to interpret what is meant by the written instructions when you're doing a distance-learning course. So as you can see I've started with red and moved on to pink. I don't know if I'm on the right lines, but I just felt it was important for me to create a colour story that would inspire me in the future, and I think these might. There wasn't much time pre Christmas to do a lot but with my new timetable in place (Tuesday and Thursdays as creative days) I hope to get on with this a bit quicker than my previous effort of 6 months per module!!

My second priority this year is to make artwork to sell at future exhibitions that our fledgling group will be hosting. We plan to have one in the spring and one in July, so far, and I’m also exhibiting with a friend as a joint exhibition in a local gallery in June, so I’ll definitely need my two dedicated days.

By way of light relief I have my monthly commitment to Calendar Girls, which I love, as it gives me that much needed contact with other like-minded people.

Finally I want to build in more time for experiments with new ‘stuff’ that at the moment I know nothing about, get to grips with my embellisher and refresh my composite work on Photoshop.

Did I mention that part of my New Year plan was to reduce my nightly hours of sleep quota to 4 per night LOL?

Have a happy and creative New Year!!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Surprise post

A couple of weeks ago I was admiring some post cards on Jacqueline's blog and she very kindly emailed me and asked for my address so that she could send me one. It arrived this morning, and WOW, what a beautiful post card it is too.

It is a lovely random dyed silk or cotton (I think) overlayed with a sheer, ( I thought it was organza) but that wouldn't burn. The whole surface has undulated giving an uncanny resemblance to Oak leaves as they turn in Autumn. I was so delighted to receive this as I love the forest that we live in and am particularly fond of the leaf carpet that the oaks make in the winter.

Jacqueline is a highly talented lady and if you haven't visited her blog I would highly recommend it as she is amazingly generous in her explanations of the myriad of experiments she ties out.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Back to normality, almost!!

Another Chrismas Day has come and gone! My OH and I had a great day with our daughter, Hannah and her husband Steve, and their six children!! It was a super day and exactly how we would have wanted to spend it, with the children!
We had a gorgeous lunch and of course ate far too much!

We spent the day today quietly recovering at our very quiet home!! We took a lovely walk in the woods that surround our house, and enjoyed a rare bit of sunshine. I was a bit sad though to see so many trees felled in the recent harvesting, these magestic beings look like beached whales, lying there waiting for the loggers truck.

There were plenty of other people enjoying this brief appearance of the sun and even a couple of joggers , who made us feel even more guilty about yesterday's excesses, until we got home, and then we had to eat the Christmas cake, can't have it go stale!!

I took this last shot because I liked the way the petrol had coloured the water in the puddle, and it made me think about the mix of made made and natural things and sometimes the end result can be attractive. But I dare say the petrol came from the chain saws that took the trees down!!

It was a nice surprise to find two more posts on the Calendar Girls blog, both very different interpretations for the January post card. It looks as if we'll all have quite a collection at the end of the year!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Finding my place

A couple of weeks ago I made a reply to Chrissy's post in which she discussed her latest degree assignment, which required her to look at her own domestic environment.
Chrissy's response to this investigation is on her post dated Dec 4th. I was reminded of my own feelings of the constant battle that goes on with trying to balance domestic duties and the need to satisfy our own creativity.
When I went to college at the age of 40 + I still had two teenage children at home, who were having their own stresses getting through the damands of GCSE exams, so I knew these feelings very well.
It reminded me of the piece I made when I was on the Foundation Course, and it was very much centred around the feeling of drowning.
The sculpture represents my face held in my OH's hand, which is rising from a sea of washing powder suds, and in the other half there is another mask half drowned.
Some 15 years on the battle still rages, only instead of the children at home, it's finding time for them as adults, plus the grandchildren, who I adore, but I still find it so difficult to put me at least half way up the list! and my poor OH is still holding up my head so I don't drown!
At the time of replying to Chrissie I didn't know where this photo of the sculpture was, and only found it today!!

On a lighter note I would like to say a really big thank you to all the friends I've made since I've been blogging and wish you all a very happy Christmas. I can't believe I only started in September, I've learnt so much and received so much kindness!! I was having a lot of doubts about my artistic abilities at the time and everyone has been so encouraging that I feel so much more confident now, and I really feel that I'm back on track.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Party, party, party! hungover

Well ! yesterday was a bit of a blur and today definitely did not go to plan!!!
I started work at the canteen where my OH works at 9.0am, which is something I do on a very casual basis, just doing holiday/sick cover. But yesterday was their xmas dinner day, so I was drafted in to help the permanent staff of two get ready for 70-80 guests. The morning was fairly easy going as most of the work had been done already, but the actual serving is another matter. It's somewhat frenetic trying to serve 80 odd dinners in a space that normally serves about 30 on a good day, and we did end up with a few brussel sprouts and tin foil in very strange places!!

Once the speeches were all done it was down to the never ending round of rinsing crocks and filling the dishwasher. I think I'm getting too old for this now, it's my 4th year on the trot and by 3.30 I was even too tired to be bothered with any lunch, let alone the post dinner festivities. So it was off home for a nice cup of tea and a slice of toast, in the peace and quiet!!!
BTW, I wasn't responsible for setting the tables, spot the deliberate mistakes!!!

But that wasn't the end of the day's jollifications. I'd been invited, along with all the other members, to the Callendar Girls virtual party! and what a hoot that was! We all bought each other wonderful virtual presents, which included fantasic holidays, dates with gorgeous men and brilliant course workshops amongst other things. We had lots of lovely vitual food, music and games. It was a mad hour and a half with most of us furiously trying to keep up with the pace of the posts, but it was all great fun and we found out a bit more about each other into the bargain.

Anyway I went to bed very tired and a bit mussy from the glasses of wine consumed at the party, ( real ones this time LOL).
I was supposed to be going to the 'Golden age of Couture exhibition' at the V&A today, but woke up to a humdinger of a frost outside and as my GD couldn't go, and it was meant as a treat for her, I took pity on my OH and let him off the chore of accompanying me, and didn't go. The truth was I was feeling a bit worse for wear after yesterday's excitement, but I didn't let him know!!

By way of compensation I bought a neat little gadget called a bind-it-all. it looks as if it's going to be a great little machine for all these lovely colour studies I'm going to do for module 4 of the C&G embroidery certificate, which I have started today with the colour red, aptly for Christmas, so it wasn't a bad day after all , even though it didn't go to plan!!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Party post card

Yesterday I started experimenting with a technique that Jacqueline suggested for FME. She confided that she never drops the teeth and never sets the stitch length to 0. So as my little Brother machine doesn't have a facility to drop the feed dog and you have to put a cover over the teeth, which makes stitching very awkward, I thought I'd have a go on it. And 'hey presto' it worked perfectly.

I was so pleased I thought I'd have a go at all those difficult pieces of chocolate foil wrappers and silver paper lids off the dried milk tins, etc. It was wonderful, it accepted everything I put under it!! Unfortunately I got so excited that I forgot the embroidery foot had been glued back together after a previous attempt, and of course it broke again under pressure. Still, undeterred I carried on without the foot, and wow! How liberating was that? I'd forgotten what a lovely feeling it is to stitch without the encumberence of the foot! But I did have to watch the fingers!!!

Anyway, the timid experiment quickly became a bigger piece and I began to wonder if I could make a post card. I peeled off the top of the sparkling wine lid and stitched that down , and then found my favourite Forrero Rocher sticker and before I knew it I had a party post card.

Finally I added some beads and some of those iron on sparkles just to add to the party feeling!

As a thank you to Jacqueline for all her wonderful inspirational ideas I'm going to send her the post card, as I'm so delighted to have found a way to try all those naughty things you don't want to put under the foot of your favourite expensive sewing machine.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Wash off

After I posted the instructions for the Vinegar painting technique, Lynda asked me if I knew of any others, so 'here's one I learnt earlier', to almost quote a well known Blue Peter saying.

The requirements for the technique are as follows:
Cartridge paper
Waterproof inks (Windsor & Newton Black)
or Kandahar by Rowney

* and a strong nerve!!

Paint your design onto the cartridge paper keeping the gouache paint fairly thick. You can use several different colours to create the design. Any white paper will remain black after the ink is painted over the top. Now allow the paint to dry naturally.

Now's when you need the strong nerve!! Paint over the whole design with the black ink. Black is the most effective colour but I have used white to good effect too, but it must be waterproof ink. Once the ink is dry you can wash it off under the tap, or better still use a shower

If you are careful you can even scrub the ink away with a soft brush. The ink will only come off the areas that have been painted with gouache.

I love this technique because the results are so different to how you see them in your mind's eye.

I hope you enjoy it

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The final count down

Well, it's nearly here for another year!! We braved it into Guildford, early this morning, these pics were taken at 8.30, so as you can see we weren't the only ones to risk it.

It was nice to see the xmas lights and everyone seemed to be in festive mood, maybe the day hadn't had time to frazzle them.

Even PC World was civilised for a change. I bought Ben (my GS) a Webcam so we can communicate visually and he can show me his latest creations and visa versa ! I hope it all loads OK!

As mentioned in the previous post I have now finished my January post card which is documented on the Calendar Girls blog.

This is my first experience of working on a set challenge/exchange and I have really enjoyed it.

I've also received Module 4 , Colour! Colour! Colour! from Opus, which looks very exciting , so I'm all set for a very busy New Year!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

All sorts

Have just managed to get some creative time, at last, today!! I have been working on the January post card for the Calendar Girls group which I was very honoured to be invited to join recently! Can't say more at the moment as the post card is in it's very early stages but I will post up my progress on the CG blog as I go along.

In lieu of my creative efforts I thought you might like to see my OH's account of his 'robin family watch', which he has recorded on his web site. It is a beautifully illustrated account of a pair of robins who decided to make a nest, in our tin bath that hangs on the shed, and subsequently bring up their brood. It took him an inordinate amount of patience, but the results were well worth the wait as I think you'll agree.

While visiting our local FC Visitors Centre yesterday to collect our Christmas tree, we popped into the shop for a hot drink. I'd noticed their lovely selection of jewellery and this time I was lucky enough to meet Nikki, the designer. I thought you might like to see some of her work on her web site. Isn't that just a gorgeous name, Dragonfly Dreams.

Finally , we put the tree up this evening and as Ben was here for a visit he helped us dress it, and what a good job he did too. I've got Christmas decs in almost every room !! I hope he's here when they have to come down :-)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Clothes Show Live 2007

WOW!! I've finally managed to surface after experiencing the Clothes Show Live event yesterday!!

We started the day by getting up at 5am, not too good for me, I'm not a morning person! We managed to leave the house at 6.30 after dragging my GD, Beth, away from the hair straightners and the mirror !! My eldest daughter Pru drove us to the NEC in Birmingham and we arrived at about 10.30, having sailed round the M25 in record time , only to get stuck by a lorry accident ( no visible casualties) on the M40.

Beth had never been before, unlike Pru and myself who are virtual veterans, having gone as members of the public since it's first show in London and then shown there with our own Snowboard Label. For Beth it was like walking into a fashion sweet shop, her face was a picture as she couldn't wait to get into spending mode!!!

Pru and Beth spent a happy time indulging in buying goodie bags of makeup, face packs , underwear etc. I, on the other hand spent the day looking for the 'grown up clothes', a definite sign that the 'old girl' is getting old!!

We managed to sneak away to a quiet place on the concourse to have our lunch where Beth emptied the entire contents of a morning's frantic shopping over seats and floor! revelling in the joy of every single purchase, as only the young can!!

I took the opportunity to take some pics of her outfit, as the ones I took before we left home were a bit dire!!

In the afternoon we continued with the serious mission of shopping, and still unable to find the perfect item for me I stumbled on what I can only hope is the perfect xmas gift for my OH, (no nothing to do with this pic, just me trying a bit of motion photography) I can't say more on that now but I will put up the pics after xmas, if it's a success, I hope!!

We finished up the day with the final highlight, for me, the Catwalk Show, and what a show it was too!!! Amazing!! We were treated to a surprise appearance by Shane, winner of the last series of Pop Idle, which was the icing on the cake for Beth. and of course serious eye candy with the muscly young men strutting their stuff on the catwalk and running amongst the crowd.

It has now become such a big event that it plays host to 30,000 visitors a day and the Fashion Theatre is as big as the Albert Hall!

All together we had an amazing day out with the three generations of us enjoying ourselves like only best friends can! And it has only strengthened Beth's resolve to become the next Stella Mcatrtney!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Clothes Show Live

It's been a very busy day today, what with Christmas shopping and various other domestic activities, and designing this year's xmas card. Sorry to all those abroad I just realised I've missed the posting date for Australia and the USA, will be more organised next year.

I'm off to the Clothes Show live with my eldest daughter Pru and my granddaughter Bethany tomorrow, so watch this space for an update (and a peek at Bethany's outfit! ) on Tuesday , when I come up for air again!!

Friday, 7 December 2007

vinegar painting

After visiting Lynda's blog this afternoon and drooling over her exquisite paper samples, I suddenly remembered a technique using vinegar (and probably with brown paper). You'll see the significance of that on Lynda's blog, a must visit!! So I thought I'd put down the instructions if anyone is interested in having a go.

What you need for this technique is the following:
Vinegar, sugar, powder paint, washing up liquid, vinyl silk emulsion.

For mark making you can use vitually anything that makes a good inprint, eg. rags, plasticine, forks,spoons, sponges, old brushes string, cork etc.
First coat some sheets of cartidge paper (or brown paper) with the emulsion, whatever colour you use will show through when you make your marks.

Mix one cup (plastic disposable size) of vinegar, the brown Sarsons type seems to work best, with 2tsp of sugar and a dash of washing up liquid and then add it to enough powder paint to make a consistency that is thick enough to draw into. It will be quite frothy.

Now paint onto the pre-prepared paper and make your marks into the thick solution, while it's still wet.

As it's powder paint the effect is quite chalky but I think you could varnish it with an acrylic varnish, or paint into it.

Thursday, 6 December 2007


Last night Ben ( my GS) come over for his usual art session and decided he wanted to make a 'beanie snake'. As usual Nanny's never prepared for these sudden bursts of inspiration, so there's no suitable fabric in the bin or beans to stuff it!!

Undeterred we raided GD's bird food store and found some sunflower seeds, perfect for stuffing, hope they don't go mouldy!
Then there was the question of the fabric. Well, I had a super piece of shiny green plastic/jersey, but it wasn't really snakey on it's own, so out came Ben's favourite machine , the embellisher and we welded some orange sheer over the top, Bingo! We had a snake sloughing it's skin. The only problem was that the sheer wasnt attached to the green jersey very well , so we used the heat gun very carefully and joined the two fabrics together. We then made the tube for the body, filled it with suflower seeds and stitched the head closed.

As a final touch Ben cut out a tongue from some silk bonded to pelmet vilene and put a couple of amber studs on for his eyes, and Trevor was born. Ben calls him Trevor aka amber eyes for obvious reasons! Hope they like him at school.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Module 3 finished at last

Well! 6 months down the line and I've finally finished module 3 of the C&G Embroidery Certificate, Nature's coverings, with Opus.

To be honest it started out as a bit of a slog because, as anyone who reads my posts may know, I'm not a fan of layers and layers of stitch.

Right from the start this module , as it's title suggests, was concerned with getting up close and personal with nature's textures. The thought of that quite pleased me as I do have a large collection of such pics, tree bark, sand patterns, dry stone walls etc. as I'm sure we all do. However the first thing we had to do was head for the fridge!!!! and look for exotic textures amongst last month's rotten cabbage lingering in the salad drawer together with the limp cucumber and spring onions that thought they were going to be such a lovely salad.

Having grumbled my way through the paperwork exercises I did find that some of the textures in my ailing fridge contents were quite interesting , such as the difference in the texture of tomato pips and the glistening juicy area around them.

When it came to interpreting the stuff in the fridge in stitch I thought I'd be in big trouble and approached the exercise with dread and irritation!! But once again I was proved wrong and I actually began to enjoy the rhythms of building up the layers of stitch and the different colours and patterns that emerged, almost without my input!!

There are still stitches that I don't like such as buttonhole stitch and BH bars, I'm not that keen on tufting either, but on the whole I learnt a lot in this module and am not quite so resistant to layers of stitch now I'm a bit more informed.

As far as the final project is concerned, the rust triptych, I decided to work on just one canvas at a time as this felt less daunting! This piece is not finished as I think I need to work over the background some more and maybe put down more layers of resin, once I have found a suitable method of building up the layers.

So onwards and upwards towards colour, the next module!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

De-stress weekend

What a lovely weekend we had with our son Daniel and his fiance Sue. My OH and I were pretty tired after the exhibition last weekend and spending time chilling out in Cardiff this weekend was just what the Doctor ordered.
We went up early on Friday and spent a happy 3 hours cruising around Ikea, which is within walking distance of the flat, so a great opportunity to spend loads of money!! I bought a great display cabinet for all those 3D pieces I've got planned in my head, ha , ha! I do have one to start the ball rolling so maybe that will inspire me.

As the weather was dire we sat around doing lots of chatting and eating!! But I did get the chance to take a photo of Dan's credit on a program he edited a while ago on the life of Carmen Miranda. He works as an Editor for BBC Wales and it's such a thrill to see his name on the credits I couldn't resist it.

Despite the awful weather we did take a stroll down to the Bay but as you can see from the pic the clouds are rolling in for another downpour. You can just see the top of the new Millenium Centre , a very impressive piece of modern architecture behind the red brick building, the name of which escapes me right now, but that's pretty impressive too!

My favourite place to visit when we go to Cardiff is the Craft in the Bay gallery . This is a superb showcase for members of The Makers Guild in Wales. Over the years that Dan has been in Wales it's always been a pilgrimage for me to go there, and this visit was particularly enjoyable as there were a lot of textile artists exhibiting. The other attraction is that they have an exceedingly good coffee shop with the most superb cakes and hot chocolate.

Having arrived home today thoroughly chilled out, the crowning glory to the weekend was a parcel waiting for me, thankfully taken by a neighbour, from Julie

What a fantastic surprise, it was my present for being the person chosen to receive something on her 100th post. My delightful little angel has immediately been christened Flora and I shall have great fun using the lovely fabric and yarn samples.

So thank you Dan, Sue and Julie for making this such a great weekend.