Ink drawings for white velvet

I have taken advantage of being cooped in by the awful weather and started the process of creating a design for my white velvet by making some stick and ink drawings. I liked the top half of the photo I posted on the 15th of April because it was less cluttered. I cropped and printed it out and used it as the starting point for my designs.  As I stared at the photo I realised it all fell rather tidily into a triptych, so, as I had the time, I did the three ink drawings below, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, lost in my own little world of thought.

Click on the images to see my comments and ideas.

I’ve not got a traditional art background and have had no formal training in drawing, but I am happy with these sketches and they do the job.

By sketching the tiny detail I can really begin to see repeating shapes and find interesting patterns, and this is the purpose of the drawings. I made a conscious decision to only draw the bold black areas of the photo, not the shading, faint outlines or any softening of the edges by the snow.  The next part of my process will be to scan or photocopy the images and use these new images to add the shading and any area of interest that I left out.  This is a really useful way to continue working on a design without losing or damaging the original.  As I drew them on A3 I will probably get them photocopied at the library, my scanner being A4.  Another benefit of this method is that you can use scissors to cut up and re-arrange designs, so always get a couple of extra copies.

Using a barbeque stick and ink is a useful way to start the design process.  You can’t rub it out and unless you want to start all over again you have to incorporate any mistakes.  Black ink is so decisive; you can’t hide your marks once you have made them, so you start to make decisions straight away about what to keep in and what to leave out.  I use this technique with groups in my “Confidence to Create” classes. Textile groups are more used to this approach, but art groups tend to struggle initially, because they expect to create something perfect to frame and they don’t like “messing about” to start with!  I use the barbeque stick because it is supposed to confuse the brain, making it use different pathways to be creative.  It still works in classes, but I am now used to it so I need to find a new brain confusing method for me!

A visit to Quilts and Embroidery 2012 at Uttoxeter

I went to pick up my embroidery “Searching for Clarity” from the Quilts and Embroidery Show at Uttoxeter on Sunday. What a cracking little show!

It was my first visit and, because I left later than planned and got stuck in traffic on the M6, I only had two hours there.  This was sufficient time to browse the exhibition but not the stalls. If you are used to visiting the big Knit/Stitch and Quilt shows you will find this rather small, but on this occasion less really is more.  I get overwhelmed by the quantity of everything at larger shows, and end up glancing at the exhibitions because there is so much to take in. Everything, no matter how well executed and innovative, becomes much of a muchness.  At Uttoxeter I had time to read the programme, examine the work and take in everything.

The entry categories encouraged diversity and I was pleased to see an overlap between the disciplines of embroidery, quilting and even a bit of knitting!  EQS Ltd provided the materials for the two special categories with the title “Perchance to Dream”. This created a coherence to this part of the exhibition, yet encouraged a breadth of imagination and talent – no two pieces were anywhere near the same. I am thinking of entering this category next year.

I thought the bed quilts were lovely; there were a few I could have quite easily snuggled under, and it’s good to be reminded of the practical application of our skills.  The children’s category was of a high standard, and it must have been very hard to judge.  I happened to pass by as one of the children was engaged in conversation with a workshop leader, having a really good discussion about her technique. I’m not sure you would get this at a larger show.

Hopefully this show will become a regular event in the textile lovers’ calendar while still retaining its local charm. I’m not sure it is worth travelling a long way for unless you wanted to do the workshops but the exhibition and stalls would fill a good half day so I would say it is worth around an hour, hour and a half drive. The train station is next door so it’s really accessible by public transport. The venue is about 20 minutes from the M6 and not much further from the M1 so if you were returning from a holiday along these motorways it would make a lovely journey break.

My entry didn’t win anything but I think it is always worth entering for the judge’s comments which were “good surface texture using inventive stitch” and “Very innovative use of materials which would be strengthened by underpinning of design”.  I wasn’t quite so sure about the second comment when I read it, but having thought about it, they are right. This was a piece I designed about 12 years ago, and it was more an evolution than a design.  My recent pieces are much stronger, but I still love this one!

White velvet beginnings

I have started to think about that piece of snowy white velvet and what to do with it…

As there’s nothing scarier than a blank piece of beautiful and expensive material, I have decided to use my photos of snow as a starting point.  It’s a very different inspiration to the ripples and erosion I have been working with recently, but still has the same elements of layers and destruction by time. It will be good to let my mind wander into new territory.

I’m not quite sure yet what I am aiming to make.  White velvet would not be my first choice for a wall hanging, and I personally think it is a shame to put a textured textile behind glass.  I prefer to make things that are vacuum cleaner friendly. I have previously made a dyed, quilted and beaded hanging in silk velvet, and I did actually buy this piece of velvet with a view to dyeing and making something similar. I do have just enough (100cm x 110 cm) to make a quilt to enter into the Festival of Quilts, particularly if I add a border. The advantage of this is that it gives me a deadline to work to and boundaries!

So working on my principle that you need a plan to have something to deviate from, I intend to start sketching and playing with some of the images I took of snow in Norway and Sweden, with a notion that I will create a contemporary hanging of some description to enter into the Festival of Quilts. It may be that my drawings and experiments will suggest something completely different, which, of course, is the joy of making something for yourself!

Next week I am going to start drawing from my photos taken outside the hotel in Kiruna of the overlapping footprints left behind in the snow by our group as they were leaving, and the pictures of grasses emerging from the snow taken from the train and see where that starts to take my imagination!

Committing to an ending

I have had a very introspective few days completing a piece of work I started 12 -13 years ago. Although technically finished – it was a City and Guilds piece – I never felt it was complete. Any more work on it at that time would have been impossible, and shock/horror the hanging mechanism consisted of 3 drawing pins hammered through the back!

My embroidered work in general takes hours and hours and is almost a form of meditation; I switch off, immerse myself in the original source of inspiration, resolve matters in my head, think about the people I love, plan the future and generally have a thoughtful meander around.  Because of this, the plan I start off with usually goes on a bit of a detour, and never quite gets back to its original destination. This makes planning how the end piece will be and especially how to hang it a flexible affair and a complex task.

Because each piece of work is a journey, they become very hard to finish.  Each piece is an amalgamation of my thoughts, inspirations and literally hours of my life.  I usually work on them from multiple directions, so there is no definite top or bottom. They are quite abstract and I have to wait until the end to decide which way up to hang them, which is why drawing pins are a useful hanging device as I can change my mind easily!

So committing to an ending is really difficult, almost emotional and I do my best to avoid it! I love it when someone takes a piece of my work and displays it how they think it should be, taking all the responsibility off me…  

I decided to enter the Quilts and Embroidery Show at Uttoxeter as an excuse to finish this piece of work based on a film image taken when my twin niece and nephew were born.  The camera stuck and all 36 images were printed on the same photo, creating an opaque mass with what looked like a bit of twig in it. I couldn’t stop staring at it, trying to pick out images that weren’t there anymore; hence its title “Searching for Clarity”.

By entering an exhibition I limited my choice of hanging methods to two, decided which way up to hang it and completed another 10cm of kantha work border in 3 solid days of hand stitching! I am so pleased with the finished piece, and like the twins who were 13 this week, my piece has grown up!