Friday, 30 January 2015

Wrapped Up

Thread wrapping-Tools and materials

I seem to have spent a lot of time wrapping things this week, it started off with Mr. Stitches birthday present, moved onto some preparation for a workshop I'm attending in March, carried on with some thread wrapping of twigs and continued with wrapping some of my hand dyed threads onto card so they're ready to use in my embroideries.


My favourite colour combination

Wrapped, ready to embroider

I'm going to a Temari (Japenese embroidered balls) workshop with the Embroiderers Guild in March, I'm really looking forward to it as it's not something I've ever done before and I think they are beautiful so I'm looking forward to learning how to make them. In preparation I had to wind polysterene balls in tights and sewing cotton, which was oddly therapeutic! I hope my winding is even enough.

Hand dyed threads and card holders

Linen mix 

Coton Perle 

I've also been working on thread wrapping and dyeing some twigs. I don't want to write too much about them here as I'm planning a separate blog post dedicated to twigs and thread in the near future! Again, it is a very therapeutic process, rhythmic and satisfying but more on that at a later date...

Wrapped and dyed branch

Wrapped and dyed sample


I've been blogging less recently, I was thinking about why and as with most things there isn't just one reason but a combination. It isn't because I've not been doing things, as usual I've been busy with a variety of projects including properly starting another new job (I seem to collect them like other people collect stamps.) I think it is partly to do with the weather, I love winter but at this time of year it is easy to become despondent after days and days of overcast skies, cold evenings and dark mornings. I just want to get home, wrap up and shut out the world. Yesterday, however, we had snow! It made the journey to work a little challenging (Mr. Stitches and I were amongst the few able to make it in) but it also made the world very beautiful. And I had to wrap up (you can see where I'm going with this.)

View from my studio window yesterday morning

When I got to work

The car park

It still sometimes surprises me how much I love living up here in Cumbria. I always thought of myself as a city dweller, I love the countryside but am never quite sure what to do with it. I used to love the bustle and energy of living in a big city (Manchester) and found it hard when I left for sleepy Penrith. I never thought I would settle up here but life has a way of changing your plans and now I live in Carlisle and work on what was once a farm (The Heathlands Project) and travel all over rural Cumbria to deliver workshops and am very happy! I live right on the edge of Carlisle, with the fells visible, the river nearby and easy access to the great outdoors. I digress somewhat but the point I was meandering towards was that I've not been blogging because I've been wrapped up in my own wintery world, and that's not such a bad thing. So, here's to wrapping up both literally and metaphorically!

This was the view when I got to work last week

Morning sunshine

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Life Drawing 13.1.15

Pen, continuous line
Despite the horrible weather the first session of the year was a good one. It was a very small group but we did have a new face which is always good and once we'd got in out of the cold there was a good atmosphere. Our model Paul had some great poses for us and I really enjoyed drawing and produced some work I'm quite pleased with.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

I'd had a stressful day and sometimes this leads to me finding it difficult to settle into my drawing but this evening I decided I was going to just forget about the day and enjoy the session. I was really looking forward to just drawing and I think because I was relaxed and not worried about the outcomes my drawings were much better. I've also been more or less keeping up with my daily drawing which makes a huge difference, being in practice means that not only is my drawing better but I'm more confident and so more relaxed too.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

I love drawing, I find it both relaxing and inspiring. Drawing allows me to step back from things, look at things in a different way and, at its best, figure things out. I love the almost alchemical process of drawing a pen or pencil over a sheet of paper and creating an image of something, creating a form on a flat sheet of paper. I'm not interested in creating an exact representation, I'm interested in catching the idea of the thing that I'm drawing. One of the things that I love about continuous line is the movement it creates, it is easier to capture the rhythms of the body rather than the exact shapes, giving a sense of the life of the subject.

Pen, continuous line

Pen, continuous line

As usual I worked entirely in pen this session as I was comfortable in my drawing and enjoying the images I was creating. I made plenty of drawings that are not so good too but it's all part of the process. Some of the poses had some great foreshortening and I really enjoyed trying to capture the odd shapes that this creates, It is a good exercise in drawing what you see not what you think you see as it often looks quite unnatural but once you get those odd shapes on paper you realise that is how it looks.

Pen, looking more at shading

Pen, continuous line

Thinking about the session afterwards led me to think back to other life drawing sessions, right the way back to college and university. The classes that I attended at uni often used a lot of props and I was thinking about the pros and cons of this. In some ways it's good to have the space dressed up and for the model to have various accessories and props as it can create a whole different atmosphere and spark off new ideas. On the other hand I really like the immediacy of just having the model to draw, with nothing else to distract my attention. Like most things I think probably a mixture of both is best, maybe I will add a few bits and pieces for the next session...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Chickens of Heathlands

Sometime last year we decided to brighten up The Heathlands Project site with a welcoming sign on our driveway, this was partly to replace the sadly weathered rainbow sheep who had seen better days and partly for fun. We thought it would be good to have large wooden shapes (probably animals) painted up to welcome visitors and show them the way in. The guys chose chickens (several of the staff do have chickens on site) and so we had a little competition to design some funky chickens. The best designs were selected by the lovely Janette (admin officer and fount of knowledge) and we asked one of our excellent volunteers to cut us several large chickens out of plywood.

Painting chickens


We then set to work painting them all up and getting them varnished and weather proofed. When this was done the chickens were installed in the lane, welcoming visitors to the site and hopefully brightening people's day!

Chicken of Art outside the Art Cabin


The chickens were so popular that a request was made for more animals so I drew out some large silhouettes of various animals found on or around site and again the guys came up with a range of designs. Once again, they were cut from plywood, painted up, varnished and installed around site. Some of them have signs and point the way to places, others are just for fun. There probably aren't too many places where you can be shown to the cafe by a hedgehog or directed to the car park by a horse.

The stoat of directions

Happy bunny

Watchful Owl

Bumbling Badger

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Tullie House Workshop: Mixed Media books inspired by Anselm Kiefer

Experimenting with different papers

I've been a bit behind on my blogging recently so over the past couple of weeks I have been catching up. I usually like to write up what I've been doing straight afterwards so that it is fresh in my mind but sometimes I just don't feel like it! Sometimes it's good to blog afterwards as it gives you a bit of time to think things over and reflect on things. I started blogging as I was doing so many different things and I wanted somewhere to record and share what I'd been up to and I find it really useful, it's also good to be able to look back through my posts and see all the different things I've done and how I felt about them at the time.

Tea and cutting and sticking. Happiness!

Some of our prepared papers

Anyway, on with the post! I did a workshop for Tullie House in November that I haven't written about yet. It was a bit odd as there was only one participant and not only that but the workshop was part of a much bigger project so the project co-ordinator was there too meaning two of us to one participant. Despite this it was actually a really good day, lots of exciting ideas came out of it and we experimented a lot. I'd worked with the project co-ordinator before on a community arts project a few years ago so it was good to catch up and work together again.


...and envelopes were recurring themes

In February Tullie House have got a big Anselm Kiefer exhibition coming up in partnership with Artist Rooms. I' really excited about this exhibition as Kiefer's work and his approach to art making are really interesting and inspiring. It's especially exciting as I've been asked to get involved in several of the engagement projects running alongside the exhibition. This workshop was for a project working with disadvantaged young people and I was asked to give them a brief introduction to his work and then run a practical workshop. The idea was that this introductory workshop would help us gather a group of participants to work on a bigger piece in the New Year which could be shown with the Kiefer exhibition.

Experimenting with sculpture ideas

Experimenting with sculpture ideas

Throughout his career Kiefer has made books and he is famous for the range of unusual materials he uses in his work so I decided to do the workshop on mixed media book making. As we only had the one participant the workshop ended up being more of a creative experimentation day, we played around with different materials, talked through lots of different ideas and generally just had a good creative time. We focused on making different surfaces that we would then be able to work into and make into books. At the end of the session we had an interesting array of surfaces and papers to work on in future workshops and a whole load of ideas for larger pieces. We also made envelope books to use as little sketchbooks to keep with us and record our ideas. I really hope that more people can be recruited as this a project with a lot of potential.

Envelopes made of different papers ready to make a sketchbook

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Gallery Artemis: An exciting opportunity for me

Feather Fan, 2014
Pen on tracing paper

A couple of weeks ago on the way back from my birthday weekend away Mr. Stitches and I stopped off in Cockermouth. This is one of my favourite places, it's such a lovely quirky little town with good shops, nice places to eat and it's very picturesque. A couple of friends had told me about a new gallery called Gallery Artemis so I considered it destiny calling when, having found a parking space, we got out the car almost directly in front of the gallery.

Mounted, framed, ready to go...

Hands Knitting, 2014
Machine Embroidery on silk organza

Detail: Hands Knitting, 2014
Machine Embroidery on silk organza

Gallery Artemis is a lovely space, it is fresh and light but also feels very welcoming. Although it is painted all white the work, the wood floors and the layout mean that it doesn't feel cold or off putting, as some white gallery spaces can be. There is a great selection of work in a wide range of media so there really is something for everyone. Whilst we were in the gallery we got talking to the owner, who is very friendly and helpful. With a bit of nudging from Mr. Stitches I mentioned that I was an artist and she asked what kind of work I do. When I said drawing and textiles she said she was looking for another textile artist and was having a drawing exhibition in the new year and would I like to bring some work in.

White Feather, 2014
Gel pen on tracing paper

Small Feathers, 2014
Pen on paper

Scruffy Crow
Ink and acrylic paint on paper

Obviously I was very excited and said I would like that very much. Later that day I had an email saying she'd been looking at my website and some of the pieces she'd like to display in the gallery. So, the past two weeks (as well as that whole festive thing going on) have involved framing, mounting and generally panicking about my work. It has been a very useful experience as it's made me really think about how I present my work and in future I think I will be a bit more aware of this when I'm making work. As I have a tendency to work with whatever I have to hand it sometimes means that work is hard to mount as there is no room round the edge, for instance. It's also made me resolve a couple of pieces including the stitched hands piece, which has been floating around my studio waiting for me to do something with it!

Hands Knitting
Graphite on prepared paper

Female Nude, 2013
Pen on paper

Kneeling Man, 2013
Pen on paper

Yesterday we headed back out to Cockermouth with a car full of work and a very nervous me. Handing over your work to be put up in a real gallery that real people go and visit and buy from is, in all honesty, a little bit scary as well as exciting!

All that Glitters is not Gold, 2014
Screen print, hand embroidery and beading on cotton

Hail to the Thief, 2014
Machine embroidery on dyed, painted and printed silk organza

Once we got there Yvette soon put me at ease and I left feeling really excited and inspired. I've worked really hard to get to this point and it's exciting to have an outlet for my work. The drawing exhibition is going to be up from 2nd January until 14th February so if you're in the area please do go and have a look, it's such a great space I'm sure you'll love it! Some of my textile pieces will also be up in the gallery and they do generally look better in real life than the photographs. This is an exciting start to the New Year for me (I know it technically hasn't started yet but we're not far off) and I look forward to seeing what other opportunities come my way.

Some of my brooches will also be available for sale in the gallery

Some of my brooches will also be available for sale in the gallery