Monday 24 August 2015

Life Drawing 18.8.15

Challenging angles and reflections

A very challenging session this time! Just as we all draw in different ways all the models have their own styles and bring something different to each session. This time our model, Jude, gave us some really interesting poses that really challenged us, it was hard work but good as I had to focus on what I was doing and concentrate on drawing what was there rather than what I thought was there.

Continuous line

Blind drawing

Continuous line

The poses were challenging because they featured unusual angles and perspectives. After doing Life Drawing for a while you build up an understanding and knowledge of the body and how it fits together. When the model throws in an unusual angle or twist this knowledge is challenged and so you have to use your observational skills rather than relying on previously gathered information.

Blind drawing

Blind Drawing

Continuous line

Continuous line

To add another challenge Jude had brought a mirror with her which was a great idea and added another layer of interest (confusion?) to our drawings. I really liked the use of the mirror; as well as giving us reflections to draw it also changed the lighting and created unexpected highlights as light was reflected back onto Jude's body. I'd be interested in doing more work with mirrors.

Continuous line

Continuous line


Continuous line

Because the poses were quite challenging I spent quite a bit of time doing 'blind' drawings. This is where I don't look at the page as I'm drawing. I find it very helpful as it helps me to properly look and observe, as I am not looking at what I'm drawing on the page my focus is almost exclusively on observing which helps me better understand the pose so I can then go on to produce a more accurate drawing.

Continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Sunday 16 August 2015

A Beautiful Backdrop

A post that I wrote some time ago but didn't get around to publishing. We made this backdrop for a performance in late 2014. Better late than never...

A Beautiful Backdrop

A Beautiful Backdrop

Up at The Heathlands Project we run a wide range of activities, including art, music, I.T, catering and sports. We also like to encourage different groups to work together both within the project and outside of the project. Recently Cumbria Community Gamelan has been based up at The Heathlands Project and a group of our members have been involved in creating a performance involving a story they'd written inspired by local places and legends and music they'd created using the Gamelan (a beautiful Indonesian percussion orchestra.) This group asked my textiles group if they'd like to get involved making something visual to go with the performance.

Sun detail

Standing stone detail

After discussing various options such as making puppets, costumes and scenery the textiles group decided they would like to make a large backdrop for the performance. They listened to the story and then worked together to draw out a design that incorporated all the important places in the story. These included a lake, an island with a fortress, a ring of standing stones, a waterfall and a magic hill. We decided that as it was a myth the Gamelan group had created we would use a range of different textured and coloured fabrics to create a magical landscape for the backdrop.

The main pieces laid out

Sky detail

Felt for the standing stones

Once the guys had completed the design we chose the different fabrics we wanted to use and I cut out the pieces and stitched them down, with a lot of help from one of our lovely volunteers. We used a range of sparkly Indian fabrics to add to the magical feel. We also layered up fabrics and used patches for the lake and the sky to add a sense of movement. I also got the guys to make two large sheets of felt for us to make the standing stones out of.

Lake and flower detail

Fortress detail

Felt sun and sparkly clouds

Once the main pieces of fabric were stitched down the guys added some embroidered flowers and felt balls to add more surface interest. We also added some clouds and a felt sun and some funky felt sheep and fish. The finished backdrop was then used when the Gamelan group performed at The Salvation Army in Carlisle just before Christmas.

Sheep detail

Standing stone circle

Single standing stone

Saturday 8 August 2015

An unknown collaboration...

Finished embroidery

This week I have been finishing off an embroidery started many years ago by a woman I have never met. The piece is a linen table runner (I think, judging by the shape) and from the pattern printed on it I would guess that it was produced in the 1960's or 70's.

How it looked before I started stitching


The piece has the same design printed on both ends, one of them has just a couple of lines of stitching the other had quite a lot done. This is the section I have completed and the other section I am going to ask one of the participants on Prism Arts Summer School to complete. The piece will then be used as part of the costume for one of the horse puppets we are creating.

Work in progress

Stem stitch stems and thorn stitch leaf

I suppose to some people this may seem like an almost sacrilegious thing to do but I prefer to see it as giving something unfinished, and for a long time unloved, a new life. Using this embroidery in a costume means it will be seen by many more people than if it was left languishing in a linen drawer somewhere, brought out only on special occasions (if at all.) The piece belonged to an elderly relative of another of the Prism Artists and has been in our studio for a couple of years, waiting for someone to come along and finish it and give it a new life. I hope that's what we're doing!

My additions

Her stems, my leaves

Using the stitches already used as a guide I completed the section using mostly stem stitch and in stranded cotton, as that is what had been used already. I've never worked from a pattern printed specifically for embroidery before so it was an interesting technical challenge, following the printed design and trying to blend my stitching with that of the previous embroiderer.

Adding leaves

And flowers
It feels slightly odd to finish off someone else's work, but odd in quite a nice way. I found myself thinking about who she was, what she was thinking as she stitched and how come she never finished it. Did she get bored, or become unable to complete it? I know I have a host of unfinished things in my studio and I wonder if anything were to happen to me would somebody finish them off for me. I hope they would, I don't like the idea of it all packed away and forgotten or thrown out. I wonder would they think about me and wonder what I was thinking?

Completed section

This is one of the things that draws me time and again to stitching and textiles in general, that connection with the past and more importantly that connection with people. We all have such an intimate connection to textiles, a familiarity and understanding that I find fascinating. As Olive Schreiner asked "Has the pen or pencil dipped so deep in the blood of the human race as the needle?" I think maybe not...

Wednesday 5 August 2015

No Borders: Seven Stories

Pom-Pom making

I am just finishing a block of sessions with the No Borders art group at Carleton Day Service in Carlisle. I love working with this group and this block I have been so impressed with how far they've come both in skill and confidence. I first worked with them back in 2012 and since then have run several projects with them, each time seeing them develop a bit further. This time we are contributing to Prism Arts and Cumbria Libraries 'Seven Stories' project.

Working on designs

Working on designs

Working on designs

It has been really exciting and rewarding working with this group during this set of sessions because they have really led the project and taken control. They are rapidly approaching a point where they don't need me much which is great, at the start they would ask me about every little detail whereas now I am more of a sounding board. To see a group of people take on a project, share ideas and confidently decide how to move forward is one of those things that gives me that 'that's why I do this' feeling. Knowing I've been a part of building their skills and confidence is a huge boost.

Keeping track of our designs

The group had thought about making a time capsule for this project but as we discussed their ideas and how they'd like to work the idea developed into creating a giant hanging book, with their work forming the pages of this book. Their starting point was things they liked about Carlisle. This idea really set them off creatively and each member of the group had lots of ideas and we were able to make some quite detailed plans of what we wanted to do and achieve. One of the things I was really pleased about was that when I asked what techniques people wanted to use they all had really clear ideas and were confident in voicing these.

Strips of fabric, ready for weaving

Warping the loom

Starting weaving

One of the group members wanted to do more weaving, she had experimented with using the peg looms and really liked this way of working so over the past few weeks she has been creating a beautiful woven page using strips of different coloured and textured fabric. This person's starting point had been the library and the rows of colours echo mixed bookshelves perfectly.

The weaving is growing...

...and growing...

...and growing!

Another member of the group wanted to develop her felt making skills. Over the time I've been with this group we have done quite a bit of felt making and I was pleased to see this person trying out new ideas and using the skills she'd already gained to create a beautiful and very well crafted piece of felt. Her piece was inspired by communication and being with friends and I think that joy really comes through in her work.

Laying out the felt

Laying out the felt

Adding ribbon, net and fabric pieces

Starting the felting

Rolling the felt

Fully felted
A third member of the group has not been part of the group as long but has still shown great progression and development both in terms of skill and confidence. Whilst she will still ask what colour to use when I respond 'what do you think?' she answers without hesitation. She just requires a little more reassurance that her ideas are good (which they are.) This person was particularly inspired by the work of Lorna Graves, on display in Tullie House and this led to her working on a theme of animals.

Translating drawings into fabric work

Building up the image

Adding stuffing

Starting with drawn designs this member of the group then developed her work through fabric collage to create a beautiful Rabbit portrait, complete with pom-pom ears and tail. Working on the sewing machine was a highlight for this person and is something she would like to try more of. This person really likes to work in a more 3D way so we added stuffing to raise the surface and give more form to her work.

Making pom-poms

The almost complete rabbit

Adding a ribbon border

For the last couple of weeks we also had another member, who I have worked with on Prism Arts Studio Theatre project. She has been working on a piece of fabric collage, using the skills she's learnt at Theatre Skills to great effect.

Fabric collage owl

I'm looking forward to going back in a few weeks to see how they take this work forward. I am confident that they have the skills and knowledge, and importantly the belief in their abilities, to produce more great work. I'm excited to see what they come up with and to start putting it together.