Monday, 30 January 2012

In which there is a weekend

I didn't do much crafty stuff this weekend - in fact, I decided to pull the plug on a project.  Last year a friend gave me a fleece which I could card and spin, and then make into something.  I had visions of going from sheep to shoulders and knitting myself a cardi or jumper.

The fleece was from a Balwen sheep - they're little, brown, badgery Welsh sheep.  I looked a pics of Balwens on the internet and got excited.  When it arrived before Christmas, the fleece was very messy - this little sheep obviously loved rolling in hedges - the fleece was full of thorns and sticks.

So I cut off the poopy bits, washed it in Tan Tech scour, dried it.  Picked out as many twigs and grass seeds as I could.  It was still very messy with seeds and lots of dandruff.  I tried handcarding it and they didn't come out.  Boo!

So this weekend I borrowed Fiona from Grace and Jacob's drum carder, and tried it in the drum carder.  I carded the same batt several times, and it still looked messy and full of what my family calls gruck.  So I've reluctantly decided to abandon this project - there's no point spinning wool that I don't want to use.

But I did have a play with a rubber this weekend and carve myself a little stamp of a needle and thread - here it is.

Friday, 27 January 2012

In which I reflect

Welp, I’ve finished the Textiles 1 course with the OCA.  At the beginning of the course, I wrote:

“I'm taking this course primarily for my own enjoyment and growth.  I love the creative crafting that I do, but I've felt recently that I'd like to push myself more.  I have a lot of passion but little formal knowledge!  So I'd like to gain skills, and put 'tools in my toolbox' to help with my artistic expression.  I want to stretch myself, and surprise myself with what I produce!  Like a lot of people who weren't good at art at school, I have a bit of a fear of drawing and painting, so I'm looking forward to pushing myself to use these methods to help with my textiles.

“As I work full time, I'll be studying for the course in my spare time - evenings and weekends.  If this course goes well, and I'm able to balance it with my work, I'm quite keen to go further with the OCA.  I'd like to do the level 2 textiles, and maybe some courses on printing and drawing - who knows, it might end up as a BA!

“I love church textiles, and I've made a few stoles for a friend who was being made a Deacon in the church.  That's something I'm keen to develop, and combine the church's liturgical images and traditions with Christian symbolism and my own imagination.  I'm hoping to focus on this in one of the projects.”

A year later I can say I’ve enjoyed the course and I feel I’ve grown as an artist and crafter.  I am delighted with the range of techniques I’ve learned on the course, which I hoped I would learn.  What I didn’t expect the course to do is help me grow as an artist and designer.  I’m keen to carry on with more OCA courses.  I loved the printing part of the textiles course, and I’m going to do the Printmaking 1 course next.  I then hope to do the Drawing 1 course, and when that’s complete, move on to Textiles 2.

I did indeed use my faith in the artistic progress, and what I have learned has helped me express my faith in other ways.  I find creating can be a meditative, prayerful experience. What I didn’t expect was how much I remembered the string making I used to do as a teenager in the archaeology project I was part of.  I loved making the plaits and braids, and realised I love the ancient roots of these crafts.

I’m reading "Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement" by Linda Parry at the moment, and it’s helping me clarify thoughts that have developed over this course.  Reading about the importance of both artists and makers in the Arts and Crafts movement has shown me how both these elements are important in my work.  I love being the imaginative artist, but I also love the craft in producing the items.  I’d love to make more of the basic elements – spinning my own wool, or weaving my own cloth, but using them for my own artistic expression.

I started this course feeling like someone who dabbled in crafting.  After finishing this course, I feel like an artist and a crafter.  The frustrating bit is that the more I see of others’ work and see the potential in the methods I’ve learned, the more frustrated I become with some of my work!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

In which I embroider a burning bush

I love embroidery and back in the summer I wanted to create something that allowed me to practice different embroidery stitches.  I didn’t want to just do a sampler of different stitches (I can get a bit bored with other people’s patterns) so I decided to design a piece.  I’d been doodling trees or bushes at a church training day where they mentioned the burning bush, so I decided to use that as a motif.

I looked through my Good Housekeeping embroidery book (don't laugh - it has really clear pictures!) for stitches that I thought would suit the design – I needed stitches to make up the trunk and foliage of the bush, and the flames could allow me to try other filling stitches – ones that filled a space rather than creating a line.

I decided to try my hand at long and short stitch, stem stitch, coral stitch, French knot, bullion stitch, satin stitch and chain stitch.  I mapped out where I would use these on a little diagram, and painted a sketch of the bush to think about colours.  I matched these colours with embroidery cotton.  I made a template for the bush, traced it onto my black fabric, and started to stitch.

I started with the trunk, and tried my hand at long and short stitch, based on the pictures in the embroidery book I had. However, I got the RSN’s Silk Shading book for Christmas, and I’ve since realised I did the long and short stitch in this embroidery incorrectly!  Oh well.  I outlined the trunk with stem stitch and coral stitch, and embroidered French knots and bullion knots as the foliage for the bush.

I played around with different stitches for the flames, and when I’d finished them, the design still seemed incomplete. So I added the text “You are on holy ground” using a Rustic Roman alphabet from Graham Leslie McCallum’s “4000 Alphabets and Letter Motifs”.

I think it’s still not quite finished – I want to tidy up some of the flames and perhaps add a border to it.  I’ll either frame it or back it and turn it into a wall hanging, and I might give it to Holy Rood House, a retreat house in Thirsk where I sometimes stay – being there always feels like being on holy ground. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Finished textiles piece!

I've finished the final project for my Textiles 1 course for the OCA, in which I had to design and create a textile piece.  I chose to design a piece based on stalagtites in Cheddar caves, and here it is!

It's sitting on a white towel here to show it up - the bottom bits dangle loose.  It's a wall hanging, hence the loops at the top.  The purple/silver fabric is from a 1920s dress, and I used the reverse side, so the purple thread is most prominent, and you just see a hint of silver thread.  I machine embroidered over this with variagated pinky thread to give more colour and texture.  I soaked it in a solution of PVA glue, moulded it over some bottle tops to get the bumpy bits at the top, and reinforced this with thread once it was dry.

This is hand appliqued onto the blue fabric, with darker blue fabric also hand appliqued to hint at shadows.  I machine embroidered the edge of the hanging with silver thread to mirror the pattern on the purple fabric.

Overall, I'm pleased how the textures and design worked, I'm just not 100% satisfied with the colours...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

In which I inject a cat

We went to the vet yesterday, and I was taught how to inject a cat.  You pinch the scruff, insert the needle, drop the scruff and squirt in the insulin.  And hope the cat doesn't squirm around. 

In fact, I've been more alarmed by this than Tess - I've given her two injections so far, and she wasn't bothered by them.  In fact, she's more annoyed/ disrupted by our ear cleaning session.  So Tess was fine, but I almost fainted after the first injection.  I'd never have been a good vet!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

In which I resolve

I have 5 crafty resolutions for this year.  I don't New Year's Resolutions - I give them up in mid-February and then get depressed that I've failed.  I so decided this year to try to achieve the following 5 crafty things this year:

  1. Finish the OCA Textiles 1 course
  2. Start (and do most of) the OCA Printmaking 1 course
  3. Tidy and organise my studio into a pleasant working space
  4. Blog more
  5. Draw more!
(I also want to get a bike and do more exercise.)

I love printmaking and am getting excited about the thought of the OCA Printmaking course.  So here's a picture of Bjork on a slice of boxwood, which I carved to make some prints.  Bjorks all round!

Friday, 13 January 2012

In which there is diabetes

Ugh.  Tessy-cat has been diagnosed with diabetes.  It's just like an Achewood strip, where the cat has diabetes (careful - NSFW and swears!).

Her back legs were getting wobbly and weak, so the vet recommended Metacam for arthritis, and did a blood test to check she was ok to take it long-term.  And the blood test showed up high sugar levels, so we did another blood test and.... it's diabeetus. 

Which is a bummer.  Going to see the vet on Monday - I'm hoping he might say it can be controlled by diet or pills, I don't want to have to inject Tess with insulin twice a day.  I wouldn't mind giving the jabs, and I'm not worried about the costs (although I'm guessing it won't be cheap).  It'll just be a lot harder to go away for a weekend or overnight - I guess we'd have to put her into a cattery. 

(And as I haven;t updated this blog with pet news for a long time - Yona Pog the little hog died in the summer.  She had cancer, and we had to have her put down.  RIP little spiky one.)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Madonna and Child

I took part in the Ship of Fool’s Secret Santa pressie exchange again this year, and was allocated another crafty crafter as my Santee.  I wanted to make something for her – I love giving (and receiving) handmade gifts.  They’re personal – you know someone has thought about you and what you might want, and has put love and time into the present.
I’d been sitting watching TV and just doodling – I love drawing faces, and I drew a round woman’s face, looking downwards.  I liked it, and drew a few variations on this, and then filled in the rest of her body.  She turned into a Madonna figure with covered hair, so I added the infant Jesus.  I liked how round and solid she was – very earthy.

I thought she’d make a nice fabric piece to go to my Secret Santee.  I had a rummage through my fabric bags and found the moon and stars fabric, and matched it with the blue and pink fabric.  I appliquéd the fabric on to the background, with cut-back appliqué for the hands and faces, embroidered the faces, and added beads for the halo.

My Santee posted to say she liked it very much.  Yay!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

In which there is possible success.

I had a tinker with my textile project to see if I could make the background more interesting.  Here it is as was: 

It's obviously not finished - work in progress.  But I felt the blue background was a bit same-y, and need to be broken up.  So I played around on the computer, and mocked-up how it might look using a darker fabric to create shadows:

I like this a lot more.  I've got some satiny dark blue fabric that I'll use for this.  I think it looks a bit more dynamic and has more depth.  But I'm finding things do change once you're using fabric and thread rather than designs.  This piece seems to have a life of it's own!

Monday, 9 January 2012

In which I am an appalling bint

I meant to post loads about my textiles course in this blog, and I just haven't. Bad child.

So, here's where I'm up to. I'm on my final project, where I have to design and make a textiles piece of my own choosing. I'm basing my piece (loosely) on the stalagtites in Cheddar Caves. P and I went there on our summer holiday, and they just looked like a waterfall, or a forest of trees. And very inviting for a textiles project!

So I've played with the colours, and the piece is in blue and purple and silver and pinks, and I've moulded my fabric with PVA glue and gathered it to create surface texture. At the moment I'm appliqueing the main piece onto the background fabric, and the blue background fabric seems a little - well, plain. Not entirely happy with it. So I'm going to take some photos of where I am at the moment, and have a play with them on the computer to see if I can make it look a bit more interesting. I'd rather make mistakes on the computer than on the actual fabric piece!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Booky Wooks

P and I went to the PBFA Book Fair in York yesterday. Well over a hundred book sellers were at the Racecourse, and although a lot of the books were for collectors (the most expensive one I saw was going for £1,100) there were some affordable ones too.

I discovered Judith Mansfield Books there, and was a very happy bunny - she specialises in books on textiles and needlework. She's based in Todmorden, and doesn't have a website (boo) but I've got her email address. I bought a copy of "Textiles of the Arts and Crafts Movement" by Linda parry for £12.50 from her - a good price I thought.

Barry Clark (booksatchorlton21) also had a good range of textiles books, and Jonkers Rare Books had some delicious late-19th century Japanese pattern books. They were just little, hand-bound books with Japanese patterns, kimono designs, and drawings of animals and humans - for use in embroidery or art, I suppose. They were £200 - £300 though, so all I could do was dream...