Before biting the bullet

When I first retired from publishing it was knitting which attracted me as a possible activity.  I had long been a hand knitter, but for some reason I decided to learn to use a knitting machine and designed a range of garments.  For a few years I attended craft fairs, and some people loved my work – but not enough.  I enjoyed the designing of the garments, the designing of the knit patterns, the choosing of the glorious yarns, … but I did not at all enjoy the selling, and the knitting itself was becoming boring.  So I stopped.

img_2617I gave away the many cones of beautiful Shetland wool, but have not yet been able to part with the bits of garments with which I was left.  I felted a lot of them, thinking that surely I must think of something satisfying to do with them.  I have a tub full which I look at from time to time, but have until now not thought of anything I even wanted to try.

felt-fish

Then I decided to try cutting out familiar figure shapes from my work.  I took my much-loved woman with fish on a dish, and was relatively pleased with the result so far.  They also have the advantage of working in either direction – there is no fixed front or back.

img_2614

I cut out another previously used shape – and I rather liked using the rib as the base in both cases.  I also came up with a design to incorporate the felt shape(s) with cotton and hand stitching so that it much more resembles a piece of my work.  I’m going to see if I can come up with more designs like the one on the right before I decide that this is a good idea, and before I finally decide whether to ditch the felt – with a sigh.

More progress on 2016 projects

pastimeAs I described in this post last year, I have been utilising strips of knitting in current pieces.  Pleased with the first one I completed, Patched pastime (pictured above) I decided to put together another – this time using the blues.

juggler-blues-wholejuggler-blues-detailThe knitted strips hang in ways that are – let’s say idiosyncratic – and not neatly edged or cornered.  I actually like this, but ’tis true that the bottom corners of Patched pastime definitely needed something more, hence the pom-poms.  This time Juggler, blues while perhaps even more eccentric in its lack of neat outline, delights me equally.  The shape of the whole complements the feeling of the juggler, and echoes the  movement in the knitted patterns.

I wonder however whether I have in fact wandered well away from ‘quilt-ness’ with these pieces.  Can they be described as art quilts?  Almost all of the pieces I have made, and all which have been successfully juried into various exhibitions have been wholecloth, which in itself is a minority sub-set of art quilts.  The knitwear-utilising pair are pieced, but use a non-standard material.  They are made to hang on the wall, and consist of three layers of fabric stitched together, but they are not regular, neat edged rectangles.

I’m really pleased with these two pieces – delighted indeed.  I’m not going to worry about categories: I think that I shall simply say that I use quilting techniques in my work.

New year 2017

finding-the-patternHaving started this new blog a year ago in order to sort myself out, I seem still to be faced with a messy situation.  Perhaps this is how my practice is going to work; but I think I shall try to impose/develop more coherence at least to find some kind of pattern(s).

distant-dancers

Progress on 2016’s projects: printed wholecloth – Distant dancers, Finding the edge, and Juggler, red

I completed Distant dancers (184 x 131cm, above) in time to enter it for Quilt National ’17, but it did not pass muster.  This piece has been several years in gestation and development.  The figure on the right started life in around 2006, cut out of stiff paper in Reminder (below): what I called a brodage (essentially the same as a collage, but the only joining element being stitch rather than glue) – incidentally a form to which I would like to return*.

reminder

viewThe figure remained in my bodies file – at the back of my mind – until I had been tremendously impressed with the work of sculptor Thomas Houseago.  The image above formed itself when I was thinking about moving forward from the past – how the distinctive cultural activities which marked folks’ origins can fade so fast.  The thought was a general one, but also linked to my own childhood experience of national dances in Greece and in Scotland.  So the figure was developed, the dancers added, and the seemingly empty space behind the hand was filled with three rows of stitching repeating the dancers.  These can only be seen in close observation – but I think the composition still works when they are invisible.

distant-dancers-detail-2

distant-dancers-detail1

distant-dancers-detail-3When I started working on the piece in early 2015 there was a call for entries to the Textile Museum’s  exhibition Stories of Migration (catalogue can be seen here), and I thought that at last I could possibly be working on something fitting for a theme.  Unfortunately my hand progress was slow, and in any case having seen the accepted work, I do not think Distant dancers would have been appropriate.  (I console myself in such situations with the thought that at least I’ve saved the cost of transport!)

*One of the threads tangled before me leads to brodages. It is a form which I did not explore sufficiently to become any good, and I often think about a return.  Given that I at present work mostly with time-consuming hand stitch I think that I would/will have to drop something to revisit that particular form.  Even if it not for that purpose, however, I am wondering if large printed wholecloth work might have run its course.  Although I enjoyed the making, Distant dancers took a long time to stitch, and the way my mind works it’s running ahead with more ideas and desires which I’ve increasingly less time to pursue.  Especially now also that the arthritis in my fingers is slowing me down.

finding-the-edgeOne of the problems I’ve had with trying to enter my work for quilt exhibitions is that my shapes don’t conform, such as with Finding the edge (45 x 84cm above).  This is a piece which I like tremendously – but it is far from a conventional shape.  I did enter it for QN’17, and my lack of expectation was fulfilled.

juggler-red

Only started towards the end of 2016 is Juggler, red – yes, yet another juggler with that same old figure!, which is still being stitched.  I’m enjoying the warm redness of it during the winter evenings.

 

Ending the year

sol1I’m still not sure about this blog – not sure about having enough to write.  This year has been very bitty, and increasingly so.  I lack a coherent plan; rather simply progressing from design to design.  I am hoping to sort myself out in the coming year, at least for the core of my work.

soliloquy2Meantime I have been getting on with developing print work.  I am enjoying using the Blue Boy press to work up the ingredients for the next quilt.

soliloquyI printed a pattern onto tissue prepared with soft pastel, then once they were dry I printed the figures on top.  I shall scan them before printing onto cotton – and then the stitching will begin.

Of course as occupation while watching the television or dvd during my hibernation reading I shall still continue with the odd pieces in my stitching pile – at present I have this one to hand:

image1

with a further handful waiting to make sure that I don’t end up with nothing to do!

Summer sloth

I have not had anything to write about for some time.  Truth to tell I don’t really have much of substance to say now.  I have been puttering along with bits and pieces mostly, with only one real project to move forward.  I have cut several lino plates, both for the project called Soliloquy, and for other ideas.

Three

TwoI have not yet proofed these plates, but I have printed three of the others, and they are now ready to stitch as small pieces.

memoir

chicken

salad days

 

Proofing can render results

Seeking a perfect print is not my goal – or at least I am looking for a print perfect for my purposes.  With the few exceptions of print as end product, I have to bear in mind that stitch is to be added without looking superficial – or even worse, excessive.  For this reason I look at the proof stage of my relief printing as a possible source of material to progress.  I am looking out for happy accidents which make the image speak louder in its own voice.

Sometimes I am compelled to put (at least) two elements together: such as this figure

new body

and this background (street furniture in Oxford),

flowers streetwhich was altered thus when I thought of the figure.

patchedThe idea was developed when I had taken the idea of a grid as a theme/exercise – and so I elaborated onto the body.

body patched 1

This became the template for my relief plate, as I want the movement to be to the right.

Image1

The proof onto plain paper came out boldly.

print001

I had digitally printed the background onto 42gsm Murakumo Kozo Select White, which is actually cream-ish white.  Perhaps because of my being aware of the thin-ness of the paper I did not press enough – I hand burnish my prints – and the result was much fainter:

print002

I am delighted with the ghost-like qualities, and although I shall most likely print another, bolder version, I shall still consider the possibility of taking this proof forward to stitch.  The original design was one of a happy conjunction of elements, but now I think I might be approaching ambiguity of meaning as well – which would be a much more desirable outcome.