Consolidating bits and pieces

It’s hard to believe that this is my eighteenth post. I know it’s a cliché, but “doesn’t time fly”. I’ve had a “bits and pieces” of a week and thought I would use this post to tie off a few loose ends from previous posts.  Going right back to the beginning, I consciously left the white velvet snow piece for a while; spring is just the wrong time to deal with snow!  Also I liked my ink drawings so much that I couldn’t move on from them.  The good and bad news is that I used a little devoré paste to test if some of the woven fabrics in my stash were cotton or cotton polyester, and decided to test the white velvet too. It was silk with viscose pile.  Bad because when I bought it about ten years ago I thought I was buying 100% silk, good, because it now means I can now add devoré techniques to the design process.

I went to the Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk where my piece “Waiting for Tide and Time: Crosby Beach” was selected for the West Lancashire Open. Again it was a mix of good and bad news. Good because the standard of work selected was high, so I was very pleased to be selected. Bad because two of the 192 selected entrants were going to have to be displayed in the corner of the vestibule, behind the shop display case, lit by the low wattage emergency light against a dark purple wall and unfortunately I was one of them!  It’s not a gripe with the curators (if it wasn’t me it would have to be someone else). The piece was designed to respond to changes in daylight – suggesting the changing light and reflections at Crosby Beach – and it sparkles when spot lit so I am disappointed, especially as I had said in my post on 16th July how much I was looking forward to seeing it displayed on a white wall in a well lit gallery…


I had a lovely time at the Ordsall Festival as Nana Knitwit, and there’s a one and a half minute video of the festival that includes a little of me and children making pompoms on Salford on line.

I have been working on the prints I made from the Crosby detritus photo. I quite liked them but they have been lurking in a bag as I wasn’t sure where to go next with them. As I haven’t really done any machine embroidery since my City and Guilds years ago, I have decided to use them as backgrounds to refresh my machining skills with.  Yesterday I layered two of the muslin prints, machined around the shapes in straight stitch and then dropped the teeth and started to fill the white areas in pale yellow Madeira Rayon. I deliberately didn’t use a hoop, using my hands to pull the fabric taut, which allows it to distort.

My friend, also called Claire and also a textile artist, is running a textile jewellery making workshop at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire and there are still a couple of places available.  So, if you live in the North West check out her blog, Textile Alchemy for details.

Basque Children in Salford – update 1

In my post on June 26th I mentioned a project I have started about the Basque children who came to Salford in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Thanks to Caroline Allport, the User Development Worker for Older People at Salford City Council, who put my request for information on The Older People in Salford Facebook page, and the Salford Advertiser who printed a letter requesting information, I now have some interesting threads to follow and thought I would update you on my progress.

First of all Ray contacted me to say he had been in a play about the Spanish Civil War at the Working Class Movement Library and that a Basque Lady, who he thought was one of the original refugees, attended.  He is trying to find out how to contact her through his networks, and has given me lots of contacts of people who have researched the Spanish Civil War.

Vicki supplied me with the photograph above of the Spanish Children, taken in the grounds of Harold’s Orphanage. The photograph came from her mother, who used to play with the children. Another contact, Dorothy, remembers walking past the orphanage with her mother and being told that they were children with no mummies and daddies who had left Spain because of a war there.  When she was later evacuated from Salford during the War she thought of the Spanish children and was terrified she might never see her parents again. Jim can remember playing in the grounds of the orphanage in 1941 when it was empty.  There were two old dilapidated rowing boats in the back! He also told me that a bomb was dropped next door to the orphanage during the War.

In addition I have had lots of offers of help, suggestions of where to find information, including the really helpful comment from Richard on my original post, and an e-mail from a chap called Peter whose family had been involved in supporting refugees during the War. I have had lots of encouragement and am going to talk to a local community forum in August to try to find local groups and community champions who might be able to help me uncover more leads.  I am finding this all very exciting and will keep you posted!

West Lancashire Open Exhibition 2012

I have just had some fantastic news. A hanging I made last year has been accepted into theWest Lancashire Open Exhibition at the Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk and I am thrilled. This hanging is part of my Time and Tide series; it is based on photographs of tidal pools and ripples taken at Crosby Beach, which I have been using as inspiration for some time now.

I had been working with knitting, quilting, layering, ripping and embroidery to try to create the textures and patterns of ripples, pools and erosion, but something else was required. In 2010, feeling very stuck, I attended some creative workshops with Dionne Swift at her studio.  Her workshops are designed to boost creativity, which they most certainly did, but also her dyeing and thermofax printing techniques proved to be the breakthrough I needed.  When applied to the work I was already doing, they added that missing ingredient I had been searching for.

I decided to make a quilt for the festival of quilts last year using these techniques. After lots of sampling I designed my quilt, dyed the fabric, hand quilted it for 100+ hours and then applied copious amount of devoré paste to burn holes in it!!!  I’ve mentioned previously that I do hours of meditative sewing and then subject it to some kind of destructive process that could ruin it completely.

It is this quilt “Waiting for Tide and Time: Crosby Beach” that I entered into the Chapel Gallery Open. It is a very delicate hanging that flutters in the breeze.  At the Festival of Quilts it was displayed against a black background with artificial light and no spots, so it didn’t look its best.  Chapel gallery is a white walled gallery with lots of natural light and good spotlighting, so I am really looking forward to seeing it on display as it is the perfect place for it.



The exhibition dates are 21st July to 19th September 2012

An Interesting Facilitation

On Friday I was involved in a really interesting facilitation with a local charity, IAS (Imagine, Act, Succeed) which supports adults with learning disabilities in the community.  They are, I think, quite groundbreaking in their approach to supporting people and are passionate that the people they work with are involved not only in their own decision making, but the organisational decision making too.

It was interesting because they are looking at how to ensure that people participate in social and community activities in a more natural and subtle way, while maintaining a high level of professionalism. This will involve developing a new policy around community involvement, and the meeting was to explain the concept to the group, get their views and concerns and to feed these into the policy.

Adapting the Circle of Friends tool (why create something new if there’s something that already works?), I created a “Rainbow of Participation” in felt that we could attach people and building motifs to, and that could be moved around during our discussions. Starting at the centre, each person discussed what they do as an individual in the community and the interests they share with others in the group.  Then we went on to discuss activities that staff and families engage in and that they would like to try. Finally we discussed activities they have been involved in with people from outside their immediate network of people with learning disabilities, family and paid staff.

This provoked serious and interesting discussion that will feed into company policy.  At what point do the staff, management and company “let go” to ensure people naturally become included in social and community groups?  Where do you draw the professional boundary on the blurred area of paid staff also being a natural and trusted link to social and community activities outside of their working role?

Karen, John, Nick, Karen, Marc and Ian. Some group members willing to be photographed!

Home Studio for a day

The very large conté crayon sketch I made, influenced by the detritus photograph below.

How many of us dream about having a  studio? I would love a dedicated space where I would have everything to hand and could leave behind all the domestic trivia that I use to procrastinate!

Last week I had an idea to turn my home into a studio for a day which took about an hour to set up. I removed anything from the dining room that could be damaged by painterly muck and covered my whole table in PVC table cloths that I use when I work out in the community.  I then created a simple printing area by the kitchen sink by folding an old towel between a PVC cloth to create a wipe clean springy printing area, with the inking trays on the draining board.

My paints, inks, drawing equipment etc are stored in boxes in various secret locations around the house, so the best bit of the preparation was to find all these boxes and set them out in an orderly fashion across the kitchen floor.  I then set myself some rules.  This was now my studio, not my home.  If it was a real studio, I would not be able to nip home for forgotten bits and pieces, so I could only use what I had set out, and would have to make do and come up with a creative solution.

I had the most effective and creative day I have had for ages! I was so engrossed I even forgot to make myself a brew.

I wanted to use the day to start to push my ideas for using the tides, ripples and erosion as a metaphor for fragmented memory and time passing.  This is beginning to feel  a little safe and I want to start looking at the detritus that collects in these eroded pockets and tidal pools.

Crosby Beach Detritus: image used for sketching

I am interested in the objects we accumulate as we travel through time and the meanings we attach to them.  With this in mind I collect photos of beach detritus: a mix of the natural, seaweed and shells and the man made flotsam and jetsam, bits of rope, plastic bags and a variety of items that people “flush” away!  I have wanted to work with these for a while, so I chose the one on the left with its mix of natural and man made detritus to inspire me…

This is the lower aspect of my drawing that I used to inspire my printing.  It has an oriental feel.

I rolled a large piece of lining paper right across the table and wondered where to start.  From my kitchen floor equipment selection I chose a pack of conté crayons and started to draw quite large. Very large in fact!  My drawing filled the full table sized piece of paper.  I had drawn horizontally from right to left, but when I looked at it vertically from the end of the table I realised I had created something special to work with.  I stuck it to a door and then took and printed out photos.  I chose the bottom area to continue working on. I translated this into print and, using fabric paint and a foam print from a pizza base, printed a variety of fabrics.  It was then time to wash up, pack up and put away, but what a successful day.  I will try to timetable a “studio day” every week from now on; it was such an effective use of time.