Thursday, September 18, 2008

More on Focus (or lack of it....)

Some points to add to my last post. First thank you for the comments on my frenzied lack of focus. I don't always reply (OK don't usually reply ) to all my comments just for reasons of time (I am focused enought to limit my Net time to gets some quilting in!) but I do love to get them. On this occasion though they require a generic response:

(a) thank you or not making me feel like a scatty freak anymore. It seems this is a normal state of affairs and ( without any libellous reference to the great, talented and much envied Sandy Lush being intended at all) people who focus are clearly creative anorexics whose ill brains do not allow them the creative equivalent of a knickerbockerglory a day.

(b) June's comments about diets are apt. Diets are unsucessful if they do not involve a change of lifestyle and eating/ exercise habits but just denial. In fact if we redefine our view of 'focus' as a weight counsellor might define a changed view of 'diet' from 'cabbage soup and popcorn three meals a day' to 'five a day and walk a lot' then I think we are all fine. I am focused intently on all Check Spellingforms of quiltmaking and textile art/ design as defined to include bookmaking with fabric. I do not scat about dithering between textiles, canoeing, juggling, macrame, dog racing and eggshell painting. That's healthy. To focus any more narrowly would be to do something which,for me (and I suspect also for you readers - unless Sandy is reading in which case, Sandy I accept this is all tosh born of jealousy: please do not sue me) is as unnatural as living on 300 calories a day.

(c) Trying to focus on a minute area of speciality is about as possible as me getting into a Uk size 8 dress. I came home from Carlisle to today to find this book had arrived.

I saw it for £38 paperback in the British Museum and bought it on line for £19 Hardback from 'warehouse deals UK' ( the bit of Amazon that sells damaged but new stock) because it had a large wrinkle in the dust jacket. It doesn't at all. This is the second time this has happened to me - I highly recommend buying from them if you see them on Amazon marketplace as they actually exaggerate the defects!

Anyway, I though I might try to focus on masks for a while. African ones. This book has great pictures of all kinds of masks although I have only flicked at it for 30 seconds or so in the museum shop - enough to know I wanted. I opened it today. I have read the first five short paras of the front flap. That was enough to make me consider quilts relating in some way to:
1, Venice carnival
2. Industrial processes
3. Cross dressing
4. Modern psycological masks hiding vulnerabilties
5. Egyptian coffins and the way we deal with detah in different societies
6. On face lots of hair designs
7. Gas masks and war
8. Fencing
9. Masquerade costumes generally
10. The industrial revolution... and that is just the first ten I can be bothered writing out.

Focus is an illusion, a deceit perpetrated by those with a paucity of curiosity/ imagination (except Sandy who focuses because she is brilliant; Sandy do NOT sue). Do not be sucked in.

Let us celebrate chaotic creativity and perepetual progress in our chosen arts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alexander McCall Smith and I....

.... seem to have something in common. Having written his serial novels for the Scotsman he was asked to do one for the Telegraph and ( according to an email my husband received from him today) "Without thinking about it my mouth said yes." Fans need not buy the paper - you can sign up to listen to it /read it online here.

Now, I'd like you to believe that the commonialty is that I too am being published in an national newpaper. (No, it is not that unbelievable - I did once have a charming article about acting for paedophiles published in The Times.) But sadly its more that 'mouth-saying-yes' thing.

Which is how come I came home from working three days in London gave up my day off today to work in Liverpool and am driving from Salford tomorrow to Carlisle for a days work. Which how come I feel that I am not really touching the long list of quilting related things I want to do. At lunch today I read Rayna Gillman's new book teaching me how - inter alia- to print using paint from a top a wobbly slab of gelatin. Tempting, but impracticable in a first class Virgin train carriage. (Or indeed a second class one but my yea-saying mouth is a snob and checked what my expenses covered before it spoke).

Really my moan is nothing to do with work (but see how I made that link to Mc Call Smith?) and more to do with the fact that I have so many ideas for things to make and so many new techniques to try and so many magazines to read that I can't do it all fast enough. Travel does not help even when you think it should. For example, I earmarked my train trip home on Friday for some hand embroidery time but a lovely ( and clearly lonley) widow lady sitting across the aisle used it as an ice breaker to talk to me all the way home. What are you going to do? Write a serial novel about her? [ Murder on the 19.17 to Liverpool ( with a no 6 embroidery needle).]

What I want to know is how to focus down. Sandy Lush for example hand quilts. Wholecloth quilts. Handquilted. All the time. Focus. That what she has. Me? I went to the Britsh Museum looked at masks and decided that they were an excellent inspiration for a quilt (or hanging or even a fabric book, if not a bag) with the masks embroidered on. Or appliqued ( reverse or onlay, fused and needleturned for variety). Maybe some stencilled with Markal paintstix, some monoprinted, or no, no screen printed. Or quilted then painted on. Or just foundation pieced And if course I need to learn all kind of art techniques to use in my sketchbook to prepare for the design. Which might easily be extended to the whole costume that goes with the mask......and of course there is that idea from The Quilt show of applique over traditional blocks. So which to choose? I love log cabin, but bears paw look good......

..... where to stop? How do people just do one thing over and over again? I was only at the museum for half an hour and look at the frenzy it started. I went from there to St Pancras station to get some supper and , oh, the lines in the roof..... what inspiration! Requiring hand dyes I think. Or maybe stamped fabric..... but I can't even start those until I finish the umpteen ideas I have already started and by the time that happens I will have umpteen new ideas..... none of which can easily be made on the train that it is necessary for me to be in on in order to earn the money which I need to earn to buy the materials which I need to buy in order to make the ideas which cannot be made on the train......


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Formby beach

As my work requires travel, I long ago made a policy of using odd moments to make the most of being in a given place. So a few days ago I took a little walk along Formby Beach. The wellington clad dog walkers were rather bemused to see me stalking down the sand in a pin stripe suit but there were not,as you can see, very many of them. Sometime I do like to be alone.

In the UK generally these wind turbines are controversial. But I like them. they are like graceful ballerinas to me all moving gently at the same time. There are a little clutch of them at Kendal on the way up to my parents' home and when we come upon them I aways feel like they are giant ( but skinny) friends waving me welcome.There was I believe a time before City and Guilds when I could visit a place without feeling compelled to record texture...

but whilst I may have learned a lot about design, one thing baffles me still..... in such a large area of natural beauty,why do British people always choose to picnic in the car park?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Harrogate Show

Just back from the Great Northern Quilt show. After much debate and assistance from passers- by these fabrics were chosen to finish my hideous fruit and veg quilt ( the plum matching the figs and being for the backing). (Being photographed under artificial lounge lights tonight neither of these photos are quite as vibrant as in real life but you get the idea. The plain strip is a teal.)

Interestingly one of those passers by was also choosing fruit and veg fabric but had teamed with a very pale sage mottled fabric and in her hands those uglies (or at least the less bright ones like onions, garlic and figs) became extremely tasteful and matched her Sanderson like flowered wall paper perfectly. Less of the sugar snaps was definitely more. I quietly and humbly bought some of the sage for the scraps!

Next month I also get to go 'down south' to the wonderful Midsomer Quilting to do a making waves class with Brenda Smith. Lesley and I spent some time spreading this Ricky Tims handdye all over Hannah's Room's booth and added these batiks ready for class. I don't need anywhere near as many but there's nothing wrong with keeping my options open is there?!

On the way home we stopped for Yorkshire health food.
(Yes, that is gravy. I cannot eat fish and chips without it).

Now off to pack to go to London tomnorrow. I was planning to visit the medically influenced Wellcome gallery ( its the only one that stays open long enought after work for me to pop in for the last 45 mins) with a view to sketching opportunities. Last time I went they had a show of textiles inspired by molecular patterns. Only I see their temporary exhibition this time is of skeletons undug from London's cemetaries. Ah. Stand by for a quilt inspired by the shape of smallpox indentations in a skull!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quilting in a recession

Hands up any of you who have had even a single passing thought along the lines of ,"Uh-oh, if this recession/ credit crunch/ inflation continues, am I going to be able to continue to afford my quilting materials?"

Yup, thought so. This is on my mind too, not least because The Great Northern Quilts show tomorrow is presenting shopping opportunities fast on the heels of Festival and my shop hop. Well here are my methods for getting the large conglomerates to pay for all that fabric temptation.

1. Acquire a credit card with benefits. My business card gives me Airmiles. I use this to buy petrol at Tescos which is the nearest and cheapest station to me. So driving enables me to fly for free at some point in the future ( Maybe to Eindhoven for the European Quilt Championships!).

2. But also when paying use a Tesco's club card. This will give you points and every month vouchers will arrive for money off.

3. Take the vouchers to Tesco Extra. ( as a bonus, this is near enough be a nice walk and so I can get some exercise in). Buy products that are on offer in the sale. At the till get an extra discount with the vouchers that give money off specific products - e.g today since these already reduced price raspberries were over a pound still I got another 25p off.

4. Then, pay for the whole bill with the vouchers you get for the points you collected. The haul at the top of the post (plus some humus I forgot to photograph) after reductions cost £9.82, of which I actually paid £0.82 pence. That's £9 saved for fabric tomorrow. I also got 9 more points for 'buying' the food and showing the Tesco card and 1 for reusing a plastic bag. (Actually from a different supermarket but it does not seem to matter!)

5. Also shop wisely. So the (reduced price) Oreos are for snacks for Lesley and I tomorrow so we don't have to pay show prices for a cookie with our tea. But also I know that The Shuttle will sell fabric for as little as £3.50 - £4 per meter - great for sourching backings. So Tesco's bought me 2 metres of fabric. Maybe 2.5 when you add in the saved cookie money.

6. When I shop at shows it goes on my personal credit card which of course has benefits - this time a 1% cash back paid to the card in January. So far this year I have £122 acquired already. For nothing. (And actually a litte bit more because of course the card is paid off each month so there is no interest to pay but the direct debit goes out on the very last minute of the interest free period.The cash is in an interest bearing account pending payment ( because I never use the credit card unless I actually have the money to pay in cash) and so if you save the interest up, you get compounded interest on the interest you got. Fab.

7. This cash back gets earmarked for the Nantwich sale in January, when it is rare to find fabric for more than £4 - £4.5 a metre. ( If this is not impressing you Americans bear in mind that full price is about £8.99 - £10.99 here. I also buy a big roll of wadding which is cheaper and more convenient than geting individual pieces. Because you cut to length exactly there is less wastage. And for the rest of the year you don't have to spend precious quiting budget on such a boring item.

8. And of course at the show I pay with the cash back card so I get cash back on the stuff that is free because the cash back paid for it. And we drive to Nantwhich so I pay for the petrol with the Airmiles card and use the Tesco card...

Now I know that somewhere someone is frowning in disgust that I am not shopping at a local farmers market. If there was one here I would. I love them. But we don't have one.

And probably someone wants to point out that Tescos are collecting data on me. Well, yes. But given the ammount of personal details about myself I splash over the Net I am not really bothered that they know I buy petrol ( work it out - I own a car!) - and lemon and coriander humous.

And yet another person tells me I should not be driving. Well, if the train goes and goes conveniently and if I do not have luggage that is not transportable by train, I do use it. But I pay for the ticket on a card with benefits .......

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Shop hop miracle

Although yesterday was spent talking law all day, followed by a journey home in such horrendous rain we were forced to pull off the road, my journey to Derby on Monday was pleasantly enhanced by taking the meandering route via several stitch related places - purely for blog research you understand.

First Wye Needlecraft in Bakewell. Bakewell has a severe parking problem and in fact Dennis never managed to get out of the car here as there literally was no parking in the town and when he stopped to ask he got abused for being a tourist. I of course got to look at this shop with its ground floor stuffed with embroidery kits and its upper floor festooned with silks and cotton floss. I am not a big fan of predesigned embroideries but am just getting into more creative freestyle stitching so I restricted myself to these few threads of a specific project. I also bought Dennis a Bakewell tart ( of the pastry variety of course) for his forbearance in driving in circles. I have to say the people in this shop are very nice indeed. When I rang today to ask them to send me back the camera case I left in their premises they instantly declined to accept postage from me.

From there to Darley Dale to Heirs and Graces which also trades as Patchwork Direct. Housed in this former Wesleyan chapel this is a fabulous shop. Chocka with bolts stored on the old pews it also has a yarn section and even some new friends to make.

This is also where a miracle occurred. Last time Dennis visited his father, who is a gardener, his Dad had been sitting out trying to enjoy the weak Northern Irish sunshine, wrapped in a tatty dog blanket. I offered to make a quilt for his Christmas present and had recalled seeing some fruit and veg fabric at Festival 07 but didn't see it this year. But guess what they had at Darley Dale?

Not my style at all but perfect for his Dad
Dennis said if it was for his Dad he would pay and the so miracle occurred - I went on a shop hop all day and he spent more on fabric than I did:)

By late last night the fabric looked like this - see it never even touched the sides of the stash basket! However I made a mistake in my oh so quick strip piecing. My original plan for a very straightforward squares and sashing quilt with border did not in fact require strips on either side like this, only on one. Drat. Time to unpick 49 seams and work out what to do with 49 strips of sugar snap peas! Or, maybe time to play and to use the intended border fabric as block fabric....

Now the fabric looks like this....actually a much better design
( and I get to buy more border and backing fabric at The Great Northern Quilt show on Sunday!)

From Patchwork Direct we went to Quiltessential in Cromford - somewhat disappointing in comparison. Adequate stock but a soulless shop I thought. It just didn't have that feeling of entering a treasure trove, no warmth to the surroundings although the owner was perfectly pleasant. I bought two batik half meters just to be polite..

Next, Scarthins bookshop down the road, an old fashioned building stuffed with books both new and old floor to ceiling. I grabbed this one which I made myself travel sick with reading on the way home last night as Dennis drove.

Inane drivel

I will post details of my shop hop when I get home but for now I am at work and so photo-less and killing time so I thought Id tell you about a conversation I had with Dennis that highly amused my small brain last night.
American friends are coming to our area and I have promised them a whistle stop tour. Trying to think of the highlights of Liverpool I remembered this now famous statue ( which has now been duplicated with many differently coloured clones popping up around the city). Dennis demurred calling it 'scary'.
'How can it be scary?' I ask, 'Its half dog half banana. What's scary about that?"
'Exactly." he replies.
Hard to answer that so I kept silent.
But he ruminates about these things.
"Why is it a banana?" he asks, genuinely perplexed.
I lost interest in this long long ago, "Oh, I don't know. Its a zen thing. Accept it. half dog. Half banana. It just is"
"But," he says, with that tone in his voice he gets, knowing that he is about to be funny, "If its going to be half fruit shouldn't it be half paw-paw?"
I thought it really funny until I searched just now to find you a photo of the half dog and half banana and found out it is in fact a half - lamb.
Never knew that.
There you go. Have to go back to work now.
Aren't you glad I stopped by to waste your time?