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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

New Beginnings

Beach treasure

I haven't posted on here for quite some time because, as those of you who follow me through other channels will know, I recently moved house. In fact I moved to another country. Whilst true that makes it sound overly dramatic; I've relocated just over the border from Cumbria to sunny Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. Typically it coincided with a particularly busy patch at work and so blogging has taken a back seat but today I thought I'd write a quick post to show you my lovely new HQ.

Lambs!

Beautiful colours and textures

Beautiful colours and textures
Beautiful colours and textures

I'm so happy to be in my new location; I now live by the sea which has been a dream for a long time and I love my new house and location. Although we've been here less than two months I feel like this is home, I feel so comfortable and relaxed here. There is so much wildlife around and the area is so beautiful I feel very inspired, I'm looking forward to having a bit of time in my new studio to get stuck into some new work.

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

Dramatic lighting and colour inspiration

On the subject of my new studio it's pretty much the only room in our new house that's finished! I have a bit more space than in our old house and as we were moving I've had a bit of a sort out too. From my drawing desk I can see the sea and there's also a large tree which is often full of birds. In the morning I like to come and sit in here before I have to go out and watch the birds, see what the tide is doing and have a little draw. I can also see the sea from my studio sofa and am looking forward to many happy hours sewing and knitting here whilst gazing out.

Studio

Studio

Studio: Sofa and Gallery wall

Studio: Shelf of Sewing stuff

Over the past few years being close to the natural world has become more and more important to me, both in my personal life and in my work. Being here feels like a very positive step forward, it's a great place to connect with the natural world; to collect treasures from the beach and the woods, to see the changing rhythms and patterns of the tides and the seasons and to just enjoy being here! With that in mind, I'm off for a walk on the beach!

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Life Drawing 4.2.19

Layered continuous line drawings

It's hard to believe but we're already in to the second month of the New Year. I wrote in my last post about Life Drawing that having changed the day to a Monday meant I had more energy for the sessions. That wasn't so true for this session as it had been a very long day at work but by the end of the session I definitely felt calmer, even though I was very tired.

Blind drawing

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

I find Life Drawing endlessly fascinating because it's so different every time; depending on the model, the artists who attend and so many other factors it's never quite the same. Each model has their own way of working and this is one of the biggest factors that affects the sessions. Our model for this session had lots of poses planned and sketched out and it was interesting watching him choose and adapt which poses to use throughout the session. There were also some impressive props, including a large sword (I bet no one argued with him on his way home!)

Layered blind drawings

Layered blind drawings

Layered blind and continuous line drawings

I wasn't particularly pleased with my drawings this evening but I enjoyed the actual drawing process. The poses were quite challenging, providing some really interesting shapes and I had to work hard to try capture them (with varying degrees of success.) I use blind drawing (not looking at my drawing at all, only at the model) to help me understand each pose and I find that the drawings that come after the blind drawings are generally more accurate as I've given myself chance to properly observe what's there.

Continuous line drawing

Blind drawing

Blind drawing

Life Drawing gives me the chance to just enjoy drawing; I don't think too much about what I'm doing or what it looks like. I spend much more time looking at the model than at my paper and letting the drawings emerge. Because it is so time limited I feel like I want to make the most of it and get as much information down as I can as in a couple of hours the model will be gone (home, not gone forever you understand.)

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawing

Continuous line drawings

It was good to have some new faces this evening as well, having run these sessions for so long now it's great having a mix of people that I now know quite well as well as new people who come in and give a fresh perspective on things. The next session is Monday 4th March, let me know if you want to join me!

Continuous line drawings

Continuous line drawing (pencil)

Continuous line drawing

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Flutter by, Butterfly: Dissolving Fabric and Machine Embroidery Workshops

Butterfly Brooches
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

When I first got really interested in textiles as an art form (in my early teens) I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a whole range of exciting media and techniques by a relative undertaking their City and Guilds qualification. She was very generous with her time and materials and I still use a lot of what she taught me today. One of the things I was introduced to was water-soluble fabric. Not very helpful for fabric to dissolve in water you might think but artistically it has many possibilities; particularly when combined with another of my passions which is free machine embroidery.

Creating leaves with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Creating leaves with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Leaves created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

I've always been fascinated by transparent and lacy fabrics and water-soluble fabric enables me to create intricate, unique fabrics and pieces with embroidery. In essence the process is very simple; draw with the sewing machine onto the water soluble fabric (making sure the stitches all join up) and then dissolve the fabric in water, leaving the delicate tracery of stitches.

Small bowl created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

Small bowl (detail) created with machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric 

It's a material and a technique that I've returned to repeatedly over the past 20 years (writing that makes me feel very old) and I'm still fascinated by the challenge of using it to create a self supporting and unique textile. Towards the end of last year I was asked if I wanted to run some workshops that expanded on the skills I teach in my basic machine embroidery workshop. Working on water-soluble fabric immediately popped into my head and over the past few weeks I've finally had a chance to get up into my studio and work up a few samples and ideas.

Work in progress

Camberwell Beauty
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

When designing workshops it's often helpful to have a 'finished object' outcome and this technique lends itself really well to making textile jewellery. With this in mind I decided to develop some brooches (a good one size fits all object) and decided that the beautiful jewel like colours of insects, specifically butterflies, would be a good subject matter. So, I got out my books, my sewing machine and my threads and I started creating.

Adonis Blue
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

I've really enjoyed making my little flock, refining my technique and thinking of how I will share this with participants. I want my workshops to be 'jumping off points.' I want to share my skills and knowledge but more importantly I want to give people the confidence to take what I've learnt and bend it to their interests and to take it further, try things I've never thought of and see where it could lead.

Large White
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

Butterflies
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

If this has sparked your interest and you'd like to join me to learn the techniques I've used to create my butterflies and to have a go at making your own unique textile piece then I will hopefully be running a workshop at Holm Sown, Castle Douglas on 15th February (TBC) and one at The Eden Workshop, Plumpton on 3rd April (TBC.) Please contact the respective venues for more details and to book a place. I hope to see you there!

Purple Hairstreak
Machine embroidery on water-soluble fabric

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Light and Dark, Sun and Moon

Winter Solstice: Sun and Winter Solstice: Moon
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

For several years now I've taken part in Surface Gallery's excellent 'International Postcard Exhibition.' I really like this project as it's a great way to start a new year; it's manageable, affordable and a great way to test out new ideas and get them out into the world. Technically I ended the year with this project as I made my postcards last month but the exhibition is this month so I'm going to let myself off.

Winter Solstice: Sun
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

As I've been experimenting with wax and collage recently I decided that I would use the postcard show as an opportunity to create a couple of small pieces exploring this technique. I've also become very interested in using the sun and the moon in my work over the last year or so (continuing my interest in dichotomies) and again thought this would be an ideal opportunity to experiment a little with these ideas.

Winter Solstice: Moon
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

I made a pair of postcards, they're designed to work together but I think they also work apart from each other. I made them on the solstice, being inspired by the idea of the turning point of the year and how even in our 'advanced' technology saturated lives the cycle of light and dark is still so important to us.

Winter Solstice: Sun (Detail)
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

Winter Solstice: Sun (Detail)
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

Winter Solstice: Sun and Winter Solstice: Moon
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

One postcard is entitled Winter Solstice: Sun and the other Winter Solstice: Moon, representing the dark and the light, night and day. I love the way cloud can diffuse the light of the celestial bodies, creating an ethereal effect and I wanted to try and capture this in my pieces. I used metallic paper and layers of tissue paper, all held together with wax. I tore rather than cut the paper to try and capture that hazy quality. It's been partially successful and I think it's an idea worth pursuing. I incorporated feathers in my pieces to represent us and the importance of our relationship to the light and the cycle of the seasons and of night and day.

Winter Solstice: Moon (Detail)
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

Winter Solstice: Moon (Detail)
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

Winter Solstice: Moon (Detail)
Wax, collage, feathers and stitch 2018

Although theses postcards haven't come out exactly as I'd hoped it's given me a start on some ideas I've been wanting to explore for a while and I hope that over the course of this year I will be developing this work further. In the meantime, if you're in Nottingham do go and look at the show and see the amazing diversity and skill of all the artists who've submitted their work.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Life Drawing 7.1.19

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

I didn't get around to blogging about last months life drawing session but it's a new year so I thought I'd start again! A few months ago I changed my sessions from a Tuesday evening to a Monday evening as it fitted in better with my work schedule and I'm so pleased I did. I find I'm less tired as it's the beginning of the week and I've been working in the same place all day so haven't had the stress of having to get to a different venue. All this means that I can settle into my drawing much faster and enjoy the sessions more.

Left handed drawing
7.1.19

Left handed drawing
7.1.19

Blind drawing
7.1.19

As often happens during the winter it was quite a quiet session with several of my regular artists unable to make it due to illness (get well soon all of you!) However, sometimes it's nice to have a quieter session and it gave us the opportunity to move around a bit more. We all tend to have our 'place' that we go to each session so sometimes when it's quieter people feel a bit more confident to move and try a different spot.

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

I really enjoyed my drawing this session, in all aspects of my work and life I've been trying to be more mindful and focus on what I'm doing rather than trying to think of a hundred things at once. I think drawing is a very good mindful activity anyway, as I've written about before. I very much value my drawing time, it gives me an opportunity to focus solely on looking and drawing, keeping other thoughts at bay. It is also a multi sensory experience, the feel of the paper and the flow of the ink, the sound of the pen as well as the obvious visual information. I always feel much calmer after drawing, it's a chance to slow down and escape even if only for a short time.

Pen
7.1.19

Pen, continuous line, layered drawings
7.1.19

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

Currently I have two lots of cartridge paper that I use for drawing; a perfectly serviceable mid weight paper and a much heavier and better quality one. By chance I picked up a stack of the heavyweight paper for this session and I was surprised by how much of a difference it made to my enjoyment of the drawing process. I've always strongly believed in using quality materials and working on this paper really is a much nicer experience than using the lighter stuff. I don't know that it made a great deal of difference to the quality of my drawings but in some ways the finished drawings are almost incidental; it's the process that I find most important.

Pen, continuous line
7.1.19

Blind drawing
7.1.19

Pen, continuous line, layered drawings
7.1.19

I'm continuing to enjoy layering up my sketches, creating some odd compositions but also some interesting shapes. I worked all in pen this session but last session I played about a bit with charcoal and maybe I'll have another go at that next time...

Pen, continuous line
3.12.18

Pen, continuous line
3.12.18

Pen, continuous line
3.12.18