Monday 27 January 2014

Mechanical Circus: On Display

Some of the finished automata on display

I was very excited last Thursday when I went to Tullie House as I saw that they had put up the display of some of the automata from the workshops that I ran back in November. It was really great to see the completely finished objects as many of them were awaiting their final decorations at the end of the workshops.

I really enjoyed running these workshops, the response from the students was great and they had so many fantastic ideas. I also think it's great that Tullie House have put this display up, it should be a real confidence boost for the students and recognition of all the hard work they put in.

Friday 24 January 2014


Detail of one of the felt pieces made

I had a lovely day with my textiles group up at The Heathlands Project yesterday. A few weeks ago I asked them what they'd like to do and two of the things they came up with were more felt making (see the marvellous Jimmy Sparks for other felt making exploits) and more exhibitions and competitions. So, we decided that working together the group could make one or two pieces to enter into the Jersey Textile Showcase 2014.

Cutting out shapes

Cutting out shapes

Cutting out shapes

The theme this year is 'Festival' so we began by talking about festivals; what they were about, what they might sound, smell, look and feel like. The guys then produced some designs and then split into two groups where they combined their ideas and made two gorgeous pieces of felt. We used raw Jacob fleece for the base (as we get it free) and brightly coloured merino tops for the top layer. It was great how much the guys remembered from last time and how well they helped each other and worked together. The felt making was last week and I sadly had no camera to record the work but it was good (if a bit smelly.)

Adding machine stitch

Adding hand stitch

Adding hand stitch

This week they decided to each cut a shape from the felt they had made and work into it and then we will combine the embellished felt pieces to create a piece or two of art that we can enter for the competition. I forgot my camera again this week so the pictures are from my (not very good) 'phone but they give you an idea.

Adding hand stitch and sequins

More hand stitch and sequins

Tuesday 21 January 2014

In the cat house

Harry's House

Back in November we got a cat, a rescue kitten from Wetheral Animal Refuge. I looked around for a nice pet bed but couldn't find one I liked and also I wanted Harry to have something handmade. So, I had a look on the internet and decided to make a sort of house/nest type affair for him.


I used boodles, a yarn made from the waste from t-shirt production and an 8mm hook. I made the pattern up as I went along but basically it is a circle, into a basket then decreased again to make a roof-with an opening of course so he can get in and out. It was quite hard work as the yarn, being fabric, is quite tough and the house itself is quite heavy. I added a hanging loop so I need either to hang the bed for Harry or put a wire frame in to support the structure.

And out again

I finished the house just before New Year and despite trying to lure him in with treats Harry has remained monumentally unimpressed with my efforts, preferring to sleep at my door or under the table. So, I was very excited when he eventually, and without any prompting, went into the house to try it out. I didn't have my camera but luckily my Mum was there and took these snaps on her 'phone. I'm hoping that he'll use the house a bit more now either as a hidey hole or as a bed but either way it made me happy him trying it out.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Life Drawing 16.1.14

Pen, continuous line

Thursday was the first Life Drawing session of the year after a bit of a break over the festive season. It was really nice to see people again and to do some drawing, although I felt very out of practice. It is amazing how quickly you can fall out of the habit and I know my drawing was not up to standard. However, I don't mind as I know that once I get back into it it will improve again and I'm looking forward to developing my drawing further this year.

Water soluble graphite on prepared paper

I did quite a lot of work with my water soluble graphite this session but I wasn't happy with any of the results, however, it felt good to be drawing and as I said before with practice and time I will get 'get my eye in' and my drawing will improve again.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

Having had a bit more time recently I was able to bring some prepared papers to this session-paper that I had previously worked on by adding poster paint, a bit of colour or newsprint to. I like working on prepared paper as it is a little less scary than a sheet of pure new paper, although sometimes if I really like a surface I've prepared and then do a drawing I'm not very happy with it can be a bit disappointing.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

As ever I fell back on my tried and trusted pen drawings which I am becoming more and more confident with, I love the quality of line and the challenge of creating form using line rather than tone. One of the people who attends the sessions was telling me about a sculptor who drew with three biros taped together, I think this sounds like a great way of working and I am looking forward to trying it out next session.

Pen, continuous line

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Marvellous Mood Boards

Mood board for a bedroom

Back in 2012 I did a series of textile sessions with the guys from No Borders Art Group, a group from Carlton Day Services who have been working with Prism Arts  to develop their creative and artistic skills. I really enjoyed the project and was really pleased when I was asked back to do some more sessions with them.

Building  mood board layer by layer

Looking for inspiration

This time we are looking at interior design and we are going to make model rooms. This follows on from a project that the group did with another artist where they made model houses. So, to start off with I thought it would be very helpful (and fun) to make some mood boards. I think that mood boards are a great way of sorting through ideas as they help bring lots of different elements (colour, texture, shape and so on) together in a visual way that makes it easy to pick out themes and create an atmosphere (hence the name mood board.)

Working together

A very precise approach

We used papers, magazines, ribbons and fabrics in our mood boards and I love that each persons is quite different and the way they approached it was quite different. I'm really looking forward to getting going on the models and seeing their ideas come to life.

Finished mood board

Finished mood board

Finished mood board

Saturday 11 January 2014

Crochet Swaps

The squares I made for my friend

At the end of last year my friend joined me up to a crochet granny square swap group on facebook. I thought it sounded like an interesting idea and so decided to roll with it. The basic idea is that every month you get a different swap partner and you make each other four 6 x 6 inch granny squares which you swap by post. Over time you will build up a collection of squares to do with as you will, I'm planning to go all out and make a blanket.

The squares my friend made for me

As luck would have it my friend ended up being my swap partner and so we decided it was a good excuse to meet up to swap our squares, which tied in nicely with my New Year's resolution which is to spend more time having tea and cake with my friends. I'm really pleased with the squares made for me, if all my swaps are this lovely my blanket will be very beautiful indeed.

Owl square detail

Circle square detail

Circle square detail

Talking to people about this group has been interesting; one person asked why do it and what do you get out of it which got me thinking about the value we place on certain goods and skills and the way we feel about sharing, both goods and knowledge. When I signed up for the swap it never really occurred to me to think of it in terms of how I would benefit, I just liked the idea of sharing something using a craft I love and I also saw it as a good way of getting me to do a bit of crochet each month. I think that there is something very powerful in sharing something hand made; it takes time, thought and skill to create something by hand and sharing that with someone else creates a very personal connection. I'd be very interested to hear what other people think, do you agree or not?

Thursday 9 January 2014

International Postcard Show 2014

Postcard: Drawing, print and stitch

Last year I took part in the International Postcard Show 2013 at Surface Gallery which I really enjoyed so I decided to enter a postcard again for this years show. I like this project because it is small enough that it doesn't feel to intimidating or overwhelming but at the same time it gives me an incentive to stop thinking about doing some work and actually get on and do it.

The original layers; cyanotype, lace print, drawing and stitch

I had some cyanotype prints I'd done last year of lace and buttons so I started off layering these prints up with lace prints I'd done on tracing paper. I also did some continuous line drawings of hands stitching on tracing paper and added one of these as another layer. Having stuck it all together and added some stitching I then decided I didn't like it so I peeled apart the layers, which left some bits stuck to my tracing paper drawings, and layered it on top of a different print made using bubbles. I liked this much better and was pleased with the traces left from the original layering so I added a bit of detached blanket stitch and packaged it up ready to post.

Detail of detached blanket stitch

Detail of drawing

Last year was a very exciting and busy one for me, I got to work on some great projects with some great people and I have been able to expand my freelance work greatly. The slight downside to this is that I haven't had much time for my own practice so as part of trying to get a good balance in my life this year I am hoping to be able to spend some more time creating my own art. I find little projects like this are a good way to kick start the process and help me build up my confidence and enthusiasm.

Sunday 5 January 2014

New Year, New Life Drawing Sessions

The next set of Life Drawing sessions starts on 16th January, it would be lovely to see some new faces as well as catching up with my wonderful regular artists. All abilities are welcome, it is a very relaxed and friendly group. As ever, if you have any questions then just ask.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Happy Times

Wedding present commission

A while ago I was asked to create a pair of owls as a wedding present. I really enjoyed making them and, I am led to believe, the happy couple were very pleased with their owls, which had their names and special date embroidered on. So, I was very pleased to be asked to make another wedding present. This time I was asked to make a bird cushion in blacks and reds with the names and wedding date embroidered in silver.

Bird cushion with names and date

Head detail

I'm very pleased with how this guy has turned out, I played around with several different fabrics before settling on a heavy black cotton twill and some funky red cotton prints. I also enjoyed making the pattern for this cushion and I think it is one I will use again as I like the chunky shape.

Wing button

Stitch detail

I used buttons for the eyes and to affix the wings and I hand embroidered the name and date in chain stitch. I used a fine silver thread and after about three letters I remembered why I don't often use this kind of thread for embroidery; it snaps and uncoils frequently but I'm really pleased with the finished result and glad I persevered. I hope the happy couple are pleased with their present!