Sunday 31 July 2011

Hearts for the Heart Foundation.

This is the front of the postcard advertising 'Heartfelt', an exhibition to be held at the Grant Bradley Gallery in Bedminster, Bristol, running from 2nd - 30th September this year. It must have taken ages to arrange all those pins to get such a lovely heart shape in the centre.

The hearts will be sold in aid of the British Heart Foundation and to mark it's 50th birthday. A similar exhibition was held last year and was a great success.

Inspiration was low until I found a hoard of experimental pieces, too good to throw away but I didn't know what to do with them. The one above is made from knitting with a variegated sheer fabric stitched on top and then distressed with a heat gun. It was once the centre of a cushion which I thought would sell! The beads at the bottom are homemade.

Another discarded experiment with some colourful stitchery to brighten it up a bit. It is a reminder that I must make hanging loops for all the other hearts.

This one is made from Evolon. I had never used it before and had only got as far as colouring the piece with transfer dyes (the ones you have to paint onto paper and then iron onto your fabric). You might remember the little daisy motif - it is an embellishing experiment - from an earlier post. I stitched both halves of the heart wrong sides together. I find it so difficult to do the other way round, having to turn them through and trying to get a nice smooth shape. I then made little impressions with the soldering iron all the way round. More homemade beads at the bottom.

The last one in the making. It will be a little string of five hearts and I must hurry up and get it done as I've promised to post them all tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest.

I've made two of the five - you'll have to imagine the others. I have applied a little printed felt heart in each centre and edged each purple velvet heart with that lovely variegated felt ribbon. The purple velvet was once the surround to the knitted piece in the first heart - waste not, want not! Again, homemade beads will link each heart and maybe two or three will hang from the bottom one.


We are asked to attach a label to each heart with a heart/warming/breaking/touching story. I find this the hardest part but the string of five velvet hearts will relate to my children who are greatly loved and so supportive. I am a very lucky woman.

Friday 29 July 2011

Potato Prints.

Moving on with Gina Ferrari's mini tutorials, we are now on to making potato prints. I thought about a suitable shape and could probably have come up with a simpler one but decided to carry on with the thistle as my design source. This bit of the exercise took me back more than 40 years to when our children were small and we kept the 'Rainy Day Box' behind the sofa - it was full of useful stuff like paper, felt, wool, cardboard tubes, egg boxes, match boxes, paint, glue, string etc. It was sometimes used on days which weren't rainy and kept us all amused for hours. I ended up cutting this shape freehand as it was impossible to hold the cut out drawing in place, and hold the potato steady at the same time. It is supposed to be a side stem and bud but looks more like an oven-ready chicken gone wrong!

First trial prints - not too successful. I kept getting a bald patch in the centre of my thistles and painted in the first two. Then I decided to place an old mouse mat under the page I was printing on and this made all the difference. I also experimented with using two colours of paint.

The shapes look too solid and heavy so I made an adjustment to the potato shape after the first two prints and scored criss-cross lines to suggest the 'scales' of the prickles. I think it helps the design and lightens the image.

I had to cheat and paint in the stalks before I could add my side shoots and buds. These are not so good.

Then came a delightful interruption when one of our daughters and her dog Chester called during their morning walk. So it was coffee and chat for a while and trying to keep Chester occupied without getting him too excited - he is only about 6 months old. Here, he is hunting for dog treats which we have hidden in an old towel - great fun.

That little interlude was well timed and by the time I got back to work the prints had dried and I could try over washing with watercolours. I really sloshed water and paint over the top and had to work quite fast as it seemed to soak into the paper so quickly. I like a bit of dithering time when using paint.

I played with mixing various colours and love this diluted purple and green together.

My thistles look a bit stiff, but then I suppose in reality they are rather stiff. I enjoyed these experiments but can't help thinking that a teacher would have written on the bottom of my pages 'Could do better'! Perhaps I can think of a way of improving them.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Further Developments - I can't stop!

I kept coming back to this page and wondering what I could do to make it more interesting. I decided to stick the stencil itself beside the image and define a few details with a dark coloured pen. It still looked a bit ordinary then I had the idea to cut out the spaces between some of the stems and allow the previous page to show through.

This page hasn't worked as well as the others. I used ordinary wax crayons instead of oil pastels and think they may have dried out over the years so that they no longer act as a resist to the yellow ink I applied over the top. When the ink had dried I sprayed the page with Cosmic Shimmer Mist which adds a lovely lustre but it doesn't show up on the photo. This added to the misty effect and seemed to push the design further back which I quite like. I finally added a little definition with a water colour pencil in a matching purple to darken the central area of the design.

I think this was the very first page I worked on and have cut out simple shapes from the areas between the stems. I like this idea and it's 'buy one, get one free' possibilities.

This is what happened to the reverse side of the page. I simply outlined the cut out areas with a 'running stitch' in dark pen. I still have the fern stencil and would like to create a few more designs with it before it falls apart, but .......................
....................there may be a halt to these sketchbook exercises as these three small booklets arrived in the post this morning. I have only had a quick skim through each one but they are absolutely packed with great ideas and are written by Dale Rollerson. She and her husband own and run The Thread Studio in Perth, Australia. Dale's blog is 'Downunderdale' and well worth a visit as is Thread Studio website.

It took me ages to find walnut ink. Every art shop I went into had never heard of it and firms in the small ads. offering it for sale were out of stock, but eventually I tracked some down. Apart from 'ageing' white paper I wasn't sure what else to do with it, but I'm about to find out. That's a gorgeously colourful bookmark beside the booklet.

I already have a couple of hanks of sari ribbon and have learned that it works well with the embellisher. There are many other uses for it, so it looks as if my time has been accounted for, for the forseeable future.

Last but not least is the Flower Stitcher booklet. I was lucky enough to win one in a giveaway some months back but haven't plucked up the courage to try it. In this booklet there are some lovely examples of flower stitching worked on kunin felt and the felt burned away to reveal beautifully holey textures.

I think I am going to be very busy! Where do I start?!

Monday 25 July 2011

A few additions.

I have added a bit of detail to my thistle drawing as well as some lettering and rubber stamping.

I tore away part of the fern page to reveal the thistle below, and worked whipped running stitch along the torn edge. I found a fern stamp and wrote the word 'Fern' in the top right corner and shaded coiled part of the design. These photos are not good and were taken in great haste.

This is as far as I have got with my mirror image of the fern stencil. I'm not sure what to do with it now, and think a simpler shape would have worked better. For this page I used water soluble crayons.

Back to the drawing board with a new stencil?

Saturday 23 July 2011

Thankyou Gina.

On Gina Ferrari's blog - 'Fan my Flame' - she has posted a little tutorial of design exercises which I thought I would try out. She explains it all much better than I have here. I took my shapes from this book of plant photos which I bought on a visit to Laycock Abbey. The photos are all black and white and taken in about the 1920's .

I don't draw often and know I should practise more - if I did I might improve!

Gina used a poppy seedhead for her examples but I couldn't find one I liked, so drew a very simplified thistle and fern. The photo showed up lovely textures but I only needed outlines for this. We then had to cut them out and use them as stencils, having first prepared some coloured background pages. I was reminded on another blog, of the lovely marks you get if you spread a piece of clingfilm onto wet watercolour paint and leave it to dry, so did just that. Some pages have better marks than others as there was a bit of wrestling going on with the clingfilm - we don't get on!

Here is my thistle outline, cut out and ready to be placed onto a page and have oil pastel applied all round it's edge. In fact, if you look carefully you can see oil pastel already on it - I had forgotten to take the before photo!

I love gold and turquoise together so used a gold pastel and rubbed it carefully into all the little spaces. After lifting the stencil away a darker coat of paint was applied and allowed to continue across the page. The oil pasted resists the new colour.

This is as far as I have got with the fern shape which I treated in the same way - I might do a mirror image with the cut out piece on the left. Gina suggests we work further onto these pages, perhaps adding shading and cutting some parts away to reveal what's on the next page. I like that idea but will have to think about what to do next. I've enjoyed this exercise and it's not often I let my sketchbook out in public!! Come to that, it's not often I work in it.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

More of This and That.

I recycled some very old Procion dyes and old cotton pillowcases a couple of days ago. I had had the dyes such a long time that I wondered if they would still work. As I couldn't find the instructions and only had a scruffy piece of paper with some not very helpful handwritten notes I was nervous of what I might end up with, but am actually quite pleased with these results. There are one or two pieces of calico in among the cotton.

I also made up a 'dye'bath of black coffee for the above pieces. I thought I had been too heavyhanded but the results are a range of very subtly antiqued cotton fabrics. The lace has quite a lot of synthetic fibre and didn't take up the colour much at all.

Shall I enter this for the Turnip Prize? or even the Turner Prize? Perhaps not. It is a section of the old shower curtain I used to protect my working surface from paint spills and smears. Over the years it has begun to look quite interesting.

On a recent visit to Slimbridge we had to stop by the otters enclosure to watch them. They are so graceful and I love watching them turn and roll in the water. They move so fast it is impossible to get a photo of them in the water so I waited until they came ashore. Even then they were very busy scuttling about.

These are Eurasian otters, not quite the same as our native ones but very similar. Lovely creatures.

Still at Slimbridge, another of our favourite parts is the enclosure for harvest mice. When we got to it I thought it was empty, then suddenly three appeared and raced around so much I thought I'd never get a picture. They are so tiny - their bodies are half the size of my thumb.

I had to take these shots through glass which gives a rather misty effect.

They are quite safe in their environment with no predators to worry about.

Normal people visit Slimbridge to see the birdlife and take photos of them, but not me. I just love these very old pollarded willows with their wonderful Tolkeinesque shapes and textures. This one must be almost hollow.This tree is still supporting quite a lot of foliage but still has lovely holes in it's trunk and lots of gorgeous texture.


I'm sure I did a similar post the last time we visited Slimbridge and you'll probably get another the next time we go. I'll try to remember to photograph some birds next time!

Sunday 17 July 2011

This and That.

I caught sight of this strange creature feeding on the front lawn in the pouring rain yesterday morning and did a double take before realising it was a baby squirrel with his umbrella up!

Inspite of being soaked - it really was hammering down - he spent quite a time out there. Every now and then he would do a little jump to shake the water droplets from his coat.

Hopefully these pics will be clear enough to enlarge well and enable you to see just how wet he was. You can see by the size of the blades of grass that he is very small. That's not field grass - it's my husband's pride and joy!

These long trailing stems of wisteria have to be cut off at this time of year. I love the way they get longer and longer and suddenly coil back on themselves. I snapped this one just in time before my husband did his pruning bit. Some of them must be about 6 or 7ft long. The white blob is my finger holding the stem still in quite a stiff breeze.

After many failures I got this shot of the full moon the other evening. I would have preferred to see it through the branches of a tree, but the trees weren't in the right place and as I was ready for bed and didn't want to walk up the road in my jimjams to get a better picture, I settled for it peeping over the top of our neighbours' roof.

I have been doing more work with my embellisher and exploring creating texture. The piece above is made over a base of hand knitting - it measures approx. 4"x7" - and the texture is built up with wisps of wool and silk tops. The lumps in the foreground are silk and came in a little bag from Fron Isaf. I can't remember what they are called but in this colour they look just like tiny boulders. They look as if they'd be in a long string but in fact come in a glorious tangle.

I used two sections of silk rod to suggest tree trunks in this piece, plus small scraps of muslin and chiffon and my little boulders at the base. The 'leaves' are again made with silk tops - just tiny wisps worked in over each other to suggest foliage. There is no stitching on either of these pieces yet and they are of similar size. I am quite pleased with them and think this method has possibilities.