Sunday, November 28, 2010

Parting ways with City and Guilds

You may recall that I have been doing the City and Guilds in Embroidery with Stitchbusiness. Of course having a house with a kitchen that looked like this, to say nothing of the other rooms which need attention, meant that I became  more than a little sidetracked.
So, before the distance learner weekend last weekend, I took a new notebook and filled several pages with all the tasks I needed to do before I finished up the course. None of which seemed related to the other list in my journal of all the ideas I wanted to work up - ideas I was excited about but didn't have time to do because of the C&G tasks I had to devote time to. I had noticed the textile content of this blog declining in direct proportion to the time I had to do non C&G projects. And, more privately I had noticed that my brain was not spontanously producing ideas at odd times of the day. It was full to the top with to do lists.

So, as I drove to Durham, a little dialogue began in the back of  my mind between Me and I as to whether I should continue or not. Was it 'feckless' not to finish? Was it a waste of money? Or a mature well thought out decision?

 Now, one of the tasks which I had actually done was to do some edge samples. Mine is an A4 piece of fabric demonstrating various ways of doing it. It passed the requirements but it is not exactly a wonderful textile work. When I did it I had to do a sample so I did, but nothing I was working on for myself at the time required edging like that and so it was a 'bare minimum' sample.

I sat down in class and there in front of me was this most beautiful sketchbook stuffed with painted pages, edging pictures, notes, examples. Bulging. Hours and hours worth of work. I loved to see it. But there is no way on God's earth I either can, nor want, to devote that much effort to a book like that. And I am not required to to pass. But it kind of prompted me to really think about what I needed in my life right now to improve my abilties and to inspire me. I decided that I did not need samples and I did not need  to work to a syllabus that didn't co-incide with the creativity welling inside me.

Dennis had come up for the weekend and so when we met for lunch I talked to him. Amongst other supportive and insightful comments which - I admit to my surprise - did not include encouraging me to finish - he suggested I should go and talk to an artist he had discovered working in Durham Cathedral bookshop. So I went up there and she was expecting me and allowed me to sit with her and chat whilst looking at her portfolio. Her name is Judy Hurst and she says her website is badly out of date but you will get a good idea of her work there anyway.

She had no idea what I was thinking about but said several things which confirmed my thoughts. In particular I commented that she really knew who she was in her art. She smiled and said, 'I've spent a lot of time learning who I am not'.
She also asked me about my work and what it was about in a way which forced me to really think about why I made textile works and what direction I wanted to go.

I thought that Stitchbusiness taught the City and Guilds course really well. And I learned a lot. I did it because I wanted to learn more about modern embroidery and to add that element into my quilts. I have learned that.
But I have also learned that I am not someone who needs to makes samples to prove to someone else that I know how a technique works. If I read a book about edges, I know how to do it and when a work requires that finish, I shall go back and do it - with a sample related to the piece if needed. But samples in abstraction - not my way of learning.

 I learned that I want to learn. I am excited to learn. But I need to follow my nose down an independant line of enquiry and see where I go with it, far more than I need to follow a structured syllabus. I have learned that I want to do things well and that doing the bare minimum when I would like to do better does not satisfy me. Particularly when it prevents me form doing a task I could do well.

I have learned good design processes and have loved to see the sketchbooks and final pieces of others but the works that are inside me wanting to get out are not going to fit into the requirements of the City and Guilds final projects. I will no doubt work with sketchbooks, but as the muse leads me, not as the City and Guilds verification woman requires.

 I have learned that I am not interested in decorative for decorative sake. I like to work with meaning (even if it is only obvious to me) or a aprticular purpose, or I am not engaged enough. I like concepts and connections.

I concluded that whilst I am still moving towards finding my own distintcive 'voice' and and still learning techniques to enable me to achieve what is in my head, the course was no longer sustaining me. It was stifling my creativity. I had found that the wellspring of fresh ideas had dried up in the face of a long list of course requirements.

So, at the end of the day I announced that I was going to cease my particpation. The tutors Julia and Tracy were very understanding and not at all suprised. And as soon as I made the decision all the ideas came flooding back. I felt excited about art quilting again. I felt like a lot of heavy long hair had been cut off me. And the ideas are involving a lot more embroidery than they would have done had I not done the course. I dodn't regret starting it at all. I got from it what I needed. but now I am done.

So, I now have some projects I am excited about which I shall embark on over the next few months. I am also going to allow myself to play. And I hope that means I shall have more work to show you.

And yes the photo of the kitchen was a pathetic attempt to get a picture into this rather non-visual post! And it looks better now.But that is another post....

Kuba cloth

For some time I have been occasionally looking round for a kuba cloth because I love the morphing patterns which characterise these cut pile raffia works from the Congo. Most of what I saw were either tattered, way out of my price range or bad examples of the 'morphing'.

So imagine my delight when I am standing inside Magie's African Fabric Shop at the Knitting and Stitch Show and spotted, folded up in a basket under her counter, all by itself: this

Mine. All mine!

And better: not only was it very much in my price range but in fact it was almost exactly what I earned in the last quarter from designing kits for Magie. Clearly it was meant to be mine, all mine....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kitchen progress

Last Friday the kitchen looked like this:
Today (the following Thursday it looks like this:

Can you spot the difference?
No. Me neither.
This is sadly because, after the sink was removed on friday the builder went home and then on Saturday fell off a roof. Thankfully he was not killed or paralysed but he has badly broken his foot and has been in hospital having it pinned. So our cooking water system now consists of an old orange squash bottle that gets taken up and down for refilling from the bath everytime we go upstairs.
The builder has been gamely sending messages of apology from his sick bed and has now arranged for a subcontractor he trusts to finish the units although to ensure a good job he wants to do the tiling and finish himself. Eventually.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dressing room

The green shoots of revovery from our 'destroy to create' stage of house renovation arrived yesterday in the form of Nolte wardrobes for my dressing room (AKA appropriated fourth bedroom.) The first item to come into the house rather than be taken out ( bar the fire which is in but not connected!)  Hard to photograph the whole room but you get the idea.

Originally I was thinking of adding this chair but realised that it would fit into the room but would encroach too much on the space in the centre which I wish to use for yoga. So now I am thinking about this piece from MultiYork
What do you think? This is the size of the chaise recreated with shoe boxes and ironing board - too big? Just right?  There is certainly still space to put my yoga mat down in front of the double mirrored door.

It goes without saying that the nasty inherited curtains and yellow walls will soon disappear and the foorboards will be carpeted.

Eight days in

On the eighth working day of kitchen renovation what do we have?

An attractive (and noisy) dehumidfier drying out the newly plastered walls. In eight days we have had the kitche rewired - including removing the wire which was discovered finished off with a pieces of elastoplast wrapped around the end of it! - the walls and ceilings replastered to make them straight and smooth. Coving put in, exposed pipes in the kitchen and dining room and lounge embedded into the wall  and new radiators installed in downstairs living rooms.

The only dramas have been the plumber hitting a wire by accident and causing all the elecriticty to fail and the builder and electrican behaving like two stags fighting for territory and having a major row about the placing of sockets and plugs behind the dishwasher. The builder won becuase  he is 'the gaffer'. But now the builder ( who is about 5 foot seven) is scared to talk to the electrician (who is six foot eight) and so I have to trot out my mediatior skills. There is dust everywhere. We are told another week will do it.....

Kitchen fabric

When the kitchen came out three pieces of exposed plaster were revealed.
Too tempting. So I set to with Markal Paintstiks and some of my own handdye that had come out at acceptable but uninteresting levels of colour. I only have a few Paintstiks which have hardly been used but now - metalic Paintstiks rock! 

 Here are detail shots of a few pieces. I soon discovered that more is more - layering up colours gave much better results than using one single Painstiks.

By the way for the non-quiters who read my blog ( yes oddly there are some!) I am not misspeling Paintsiks - it is a brand name for oil pastels which can be heat set with an iron onto fabric. They are the same as the oil sticks used back wne stencilling all over your house walls was trendy, except maybe a little softer to use. How do I know? Because the gold you see below was a decorating product left over from those Jocasta Innes paint effect Eighties days! I hasten to say I never did use it on any house walls.

Anyway - here is some of my fabric:


Friday, November 05, 2010

Wax prints

May I commend to you a new book.
Written by Magie Relph and Robert Irwin (aka Saturday Boy) of my beloved African Fabric shop it was wonderful photos of African street life in it - of ocurse with the women wearing the eponymous African Wax Prints. The books is half an accessible history of the fabrics and half a gallery. The Gallery has full page photos of quilts made with wax prints - not always easiest for people to imagine how to use. So if you are already into them this is eye candy. If you are unsure about them this is educational eye candy. Plus the book comes wrapped in a pieces of vintage wax print so you can get all fired up and start right away. How cool is that?

Oh and my Guguletu quilt  ( which is available as a kit here) is featured.

The book costs £16.15 plus P&p with the fabric or if for some strange, unfathomable reason you don't want fabric you can have a naked version for £13.95 Plus P&P. Order here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Quilty kitchen (sort of)

The kitchen is going in!
Well, more precisely, at the moment the kitchen is coming out, but let's be optimistic about this.
Dennis has been tasked with taking the photos in progress in between acting as the electrician's apprentice. I arrived home to be told, "I took  a quilty photo for you today" :
And you know, he is right. It instantly reminded me of the long lengths of cloth screen printed by Clare Benn - you can see some of her stuff here.

In a minute I am going to look around my current kitchen....

.... to see if I can find Markal Paintskix. Which are in the current kitchen becuase they were in a box in the garage which in 2 1/2 years will be my wet studio but  had to come out because the new kitchen is being stored in the garage... oh you get the idea. Anyway, how can anyone with Painstix in their possession resist this exposed plaster work?

The electrican suggested some extra embellishment today- an idea he got from some comedian on TV last night. He suggested that on the basis that eventually someone else will move into the house and decorate, even if in many years to come, we should get some vivid red paint and scrawl on the plaster, "I will kill again."

Finally one last inspiration for those of you (Rayna et al) who like lines to work with:

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fabric finds

On the whole I was not as tempted by fabric at PIQF as I thought I would be - I genuinely think the shopping at Festival of Quilts is much better. But of course there are exceptions to every rule. I did get some 'standards' - batiks, handdyes etc as the price works out a little cheaper in the US and well, a show without shopping is not much fun.
But the real finds were the pices of Art cloth by a group of three women called Women of Cloth whom I discovered last time we were in the US as Louise Smith sells some of her cloth through Fabrications in Healdsburg.

This piece is scarf length as I could not bear to buy the smaller piece for fear I would ruin it. This way I will probably just wear it. I love the moon like images. I think this one is by Judy Bianchi but I have removed the lable and and not sure.

This one - by Louise Smith will get cut up  and used I think with some metallic painted cloth I also bought. I Plan to use these colours in the house at some point so maybe a wall quilt will ensue. Or a cushion. It would be fun to hide the individual circles in pieces all roun dthe house as a recurring theme. Kind of 'Where's Wally ?'for quilters!

This piece is not Women of Cloth but from a stall run by two Indian women and is a FQ of hand dyed batik and has a seersucker like texture
And finally this one - again Women of Cloth. I plan just to frame this one - again for fear of ruining it. And, as my hope is to fill our home with small works of art from the individual artists I must surely include some art cloth in that.
Dennis was shown it and I crossed my fingers hoping he would see it as Art and not just More Fabric. he squinted at it.  "You could see it as Japanese writing. Or  a town map. Or you could just say it was pretty. Indeed.