Sunday, 31 October 2010

Unburied treasure

Am feeling smug today, having finally finished a project which has been at least a year in its creation (although most of that was within my head and I didn't start in earnest until a couple of months ago).  And it's not like it's anything deep and meaningful, just something fun, but has taken an awful lot more planning and titchy working than I'd anticipated.

With the exception of the skull (Halloween purchase) and the shells, everything has been hand-made.  Most of it, with the exception of the rocks (papier maché) and the buckles on the treasure chest (bent wire), is fabric and/or stitched.  Both octopuses are crocheted, the pale one was intended for the lid of the chest but was too small so redeployed; the various weeds are painted ribbon, latex and chain stitch. 

To add to my smugness, this is intended for the next exhibition of my local Embroiders' Guild which has a deadline of April - for once I've finished a project early.  Although I have another idea which I want to enter, so I'm sure I'll be finishing that at midnight before the deadline.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Quality quilts

photo from
Visited the Quilt Museum and Gallery in York for the first time at the weekend.  Apparently it opened in 2008, so is fairly recent and whilst a small space, is in a lovely timbered 15th century guildhall which definitely adds to the experience.  And the warm Yorkshire welcome goes without saying.

They are currently curating an embroidery exhibition and this piece, Pagoda 1 by Lara Carter was my favourite.  It's huge, probably 8 feet high, wider at the top than the bottom and was displayed so that it hangs in luxuriant folds.  I love the way the delicate colours merge into each other and create such substantial but mystical buildings.

There were also (unsurprisingly) quilts on display, some of them dating from the WWII era and embracing the tradition of re-using fabric from the family's wardrobes to create something both practical and beautiful.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Caster plast

For reasons which I'll explain in a minute, OH and I spent an hour or so this afternoon making a plaster cast of my shoulders.  It's the first time either of us have used plaster of Paris, so was slightly nervous about ending up in A&E needing to be cut out of it by an expert, but it's been remarkably successful (although seeing myself in the 'flesh' has made me realise how round-shouldered my posture is).  The process didn't take long, and even being cut free has left me unscarred (although minus a few hairs).  The cast is no work of art, but it looks satisfyingly professional and may tempt me at some point into something sculptural.

But back to current practicalities: the cast is part of a new project on the theme of Articulation for which I need to make "a structure to be worn on the body".  I have an idea in my head (hasn't yet made it to paper, let alone the real world) of an asymmetrical piece of jewellery/body adornment which stretches from my neck over one shoulder, made of jointed pieces of not-quite-sure-what.  Whatever material I decide to use, I was thinking I needed something to fit the adornment around whilst I'm making it, hence using OH's suggestion of the plaster cast.  Seems quite a lot of effort for a glorified tailor's dummy, but it beats watching Sunday afternoon TV.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Art in the park

Went to the Frieze art fair yesterday in Regent's Park - a huge exhibition with contemporary exhibits from galleries around the world.  The crowd def had an international flavour, quite heavy on expensively-dressed French/Spanish/Italians, with some weird-and-whacky art student types and a sprinkling of Beautiful People.  In between the people-watching, I did manage to see lots of art, some of it intriguing and inspiring and other pieces just a bit ... odd.

This piece (Untitled, by Jason Martin) falls into the former category, the intensity of the colour is amazing and I love the tactile simplicity.  It's apparently just pure pigment, layered incredibly thickly.

I also really liked this, by Michael Bauch, both for the vivid colour but also the repetitive simplicity of the cut-out sections.  I'm sure I'm missing lots of deep meaning in the piece, but maybe my recent art enrollment will enlighten me.  And in the meantime I'm enjoying just looking.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Retro stitching

I wanted to do something slightly retro and whilst cross-stitch isn't generally my thing it seemed to fit the bill.  This is, unsurprisingly, a new home card for some friends.

I'm quite pleased with the graduated colour in the lettering, (this was take 2 and involved a certain amount of unpicking), although in retrospect the darkest red should have been at the top (note to self: don't skimp on the unpicking). 

There's definitely more to cross-stitch than I'd first thought.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Detail of Portholes by Lucie Summers
and Jenny Spencer
Just been to the Knitting and Stitching show at Ally Pally - some fantastic exhibits, although would have liked more exhibits and less commercial stalls, but can understand these things have to pay their way.  Anyway, back to the good stuff: really liked these knitted cushions, by a recent graduate of Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Sophie Strickson, they look beautifully tactile (I was sticking to the 'no touching' policy but was quite an effort).  In a much more traditional vein, there were some beautiful batiques of Scottish landscapes by Sarah Tucker, one of which, if I can convince OH, may end up on our wall.  Also liked most of the paper exhibits from the Holland Paper Biennal (I know, sounds odd to have paper at a knitting and stitching show, but the creations were mostly very 3D and a great inspiration).

Portholes by Lucie Summers
and Jenny Spencer

However, I think my favourite exhibit was this quilt (which won the Group Quilts competition at the NEC Festival of Quilts) by Lucie Summers and Jenny Spencer.  Feel slightly guilty to have photographed it, as most of the exhibits have big 'No Photography' and 'Protect the rights of the artist' signs near them, but this stand didn't seem to have, and I just couldn't resist.  I love the colours, the circular motifs, the fluidity of the quilting ...

Saturday, 2 October 2010


I love seahorses, and as a child used to think that it was unfair that they shared a name with hippopotamuses (which I also love, but are definitely at the other end of the delicate and graceful spectrum).  Another reason why teaching Latin has its place.

This particular seahorse was a test for part of a current project, and at just 3cm high is definitely titchy.  Very occasionally working in a small scale is advantageous: the spine has managed to be sufficiently 3D just by doing a wrapped backstitch around a single vertical thread. 

All I need do now is recreate this as part of the finished piece which I fear may not be easy - as with Hollywood films, the second iteration rarely flows as effortlessly as the first.