Sometimes the urge to make traditional quilts is quite irresistible....
The exhibition of Bridget Riley's work, covering several decades, was an eye opener in all senses. The works spoke for themselves but the ones I found most interesting were those showing the design processes. And her drawings were beautiful - I'd never seen them before.
As a break from textile work I recently experimented with boiling paper and plant material in water with vinegar and rusty objects. The results were interesting and unexpected, some beautiful, some ugly, but all usable in one form or another.
The quality of the paper is important. My first batch used Khadi hand made cotton rag paper, 350gsm, which gave reasonable results. Fuchsias, olive leaves, geraniums and hydrangeas were included in the bundle, which was then secured at two ends with bulldog clips. The bundle was boiled for 90 minutes with windows and doors open as well as the extractor fan going at full blast! The smell of boiling vinegar is horrible...
I was pleased with the results but felt that the pages were rather grey, perhaps a combination of cooking for too long and the reaction of the fuchsia to the process. These pictures were taken while the pages were still wet; they were lighter when dry.
For my second batch of papers I used Bockingford watercolour paper, 300gsm, and boiled the pages for just an hour, The results were good but, again, some of the colour was rather dark, aven after drying. I had used autumn leaves and fuchsia, to see if the colours would transfer but instead they made the imprint very dark and, in the case of the latter, almost like a smudgy mess. These are some of the better pages:
The object of this exercise was always to make a book with the pages then work into them to alter, heighten or soften the images. I used watercolours, soluble graphite, pastel and ink but the effects are quite subtle, largely because of the nature of the delicate imagery.
I wanted the book to be a 'self sufficient object' that could be easily displayed. I therefore chose a concertina binding so the pages are more open and interesting. It also make it possible for the book to stand up and be viewed easily, as you can see from the last picture. The back is rather dull so I might add some small collages to the spines as well as ties so that the book can be fastened shut.
Faith Ringgold is an African American artist, activist and children's author, born in Harlem in 1930. But there's much more to her life than I can attempt to cover in this brief blog post.
I went to her first exhibition in a European venue, the Serpentine Gallery in London, which spans over 50 years of her art. It includes oil paintings, political posters and textile story quilts. Her works are exuberant, sombre, painful and political.
Some of her artworks are shown below and you can see more with these links:
At a recent meeting of Contemporary Quilt London, I gave a demonstration of one of my techniques in exploring line. I had a solo exhibition in Thirsk in 2012, I produced a large body of monochromatic work, which can be found in Galleries with this link Monochrome series. I was inspired by a photograph of a hydro-electric dam under construction and my experiments led to many pieces of work.
For the demonstration I used a picture of viburnum branches. I felt that the image had a strong graphic element from which a design could develop.
I then took tracings, selecting the interesting areas and ignoring too much detail. I had in mind a wall hanging so made three tracings and glued them together, replicating potential stitch lines in green pen.
My first attempt was awful - I traced the tracing onto fabric, stitched it in black thread then painted it with acrylics. Needless to say it was untidy and uneven in tone, as can be seen with this picture - very disappointing.
However, I don't know why I didn't think of it from the outset - there was no alternative but to return to my trusty ScanNCut. I cut out an acetate stencil which enabled me to transfer the image onto fabric, cleanly and easily using Markel Paintstiks, as can be seen in the pictures below:
I experimented with stitching but wasn't entirely satisfied with the end results. Maybe more samples need to be investigated which leads me to ask myself: will I ever make a wall hanging based on these researches?
I managed to see this exhibition on its penultimate day and although the gallery was busy it was easy to see the exhibits - some could not be missed because of their size.
I had no idea that I needed a Brother ScanNCut machine until I saw it demonstrated in one of my textile groups. This is a fantastic invention which has helped me in my recent work.
It has a large library of images, which are helpful - but for me the ability to scan a drawing, resize it , duplicate it and cut it out is nothing short of revolutionary. When hands are not as strong as they once were, to be able to cut out detailed stencils in acetate takes out a lot of the hard work and adds to the pleasure of the process.
Taking part in three group exhibitions in 2018, it made sense to explore a particular theme in some depth and I chose Virgil's Georgics as the subject matter, a rich seam of imagery ready for interpreting in textile. So, rooks, olive leaves, vines, bees - all easily cut out of acetate for use as stencils.
The instruction book was singularly unhelpful but there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube and I found those by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer especially helpful.
I have never felt the urge to go to South America as there are many places closer to home that I have yet to explore. But when my son, Sam, announced last year that he was going to travel around the continent it was an opportunity not to be missed.
When seeing the Andes in Bogota I had to keep pinching myself as there was a feeling of disbelief that I was over 2,500 metres above sea level (and feeling no ill-effects).
Fruit and vegetables were colourful and cheap - a kilo of avocados for £1.00 was a striking example. Street vendors catered to the many tastes - pastries, fried foods, stuffed breads, chopped fruits and fresh juice, made on their stands. Just delicious.
And the colours and textures and textiles. This is a small selection of examples
Candelaria, the old colonial quarter of Bogota, full of narrow pavements, steep gradients and quirky shops, cafes and restaurants - quite bohemian
Mono printing with Gelli plates is one of my favourite techniques. I have used it in many of my works including some of my Poppy pieces "Poppies Sown in Thread", my series of journal quilts based on the Southbank Centre, which can be accessed with this link - 2015 - and my SAQA entry for the Made in Europe travelling show to be found here - News.
I recently ran a workshop on using the Gelli plates and prepared various samples for the class to demonstrate the techniques used and effects that could be obtained. Of course, rollers need cleaning between each print to prevent the paint drying on them, with often disastrous results. But instead of cleaning off the paint with a rag I keep a sketchbook next to me and roll off the excess paint onto a page.
These are a few examples of the pages created by cleaning off the rollers.
I was pleased with the results and might use the pages as backgrounds to other artwork. Or I might just enjoy looking at the abstract patterns and the colours.
I find it difficult to get rid of scraps. I have boxes of them. They threaten to take over my workroom and then the house. Something must be done. Something was done.
I tipped scraps out onto the floor and started sorting them out by colour family, by temperature, by pattern. Ideas began to flow. Organic shapes, curves, undulating lines. In the motley piles of scraps I began to see woods, forests and trees, as well as hills, fields and paths.
I cut out strips - no ruler or scissors, just a rotary cutter, freely slicing through pairs of fabrics, then another pair, joining up the pairs to make curvy blocks of colour, some in warm earth tones of reds, oranges and browns, others of greens yellows and the occasional purple.
The blocks were sewn together in strips then joined to make a whole piece. Now the question - which way round should it be - vertical or horizontal? I had concentrated on the block and colour placement knowing that I would be pleased with the end result but not thinking about orientation - part of the serendipity of making art.
I played with the piece in all directions, thinking about the irregular shapes of the edges and whether I should straighten them out by cutting them off. But then it would lose its organic feel.... I decided it looked more like a landscape rather than a forest. So a horizontal placement with undulating horizontal lines of quilting
And how to bind the edges? The answer was obvious - just tidy up the edges, keeping their free form and finish the quilt with a facing, not a binding.
The finished quilt - "Red Earth"