Sunday, 28 July 2013

Saving Face

In a week of Royal announcements I can also say that I've created a new body!  I've just completed the second workshop with doll maker, Kathryn Thompson and here are the fruits of my labours.

Arriving with a bag of body parts and an un-stuffed head or two, the class was soon whipped into shape as we had a lot to get through.  I realised that the course was not just about making a doll but it was actually a lesson in drawing faces.  Kathryn took us through the essentials of proportion and then focussed on how to create details such as eyebrows and eye colour using her impressive collection of fine markers and colouring pencils.  Armed with this knowledge we then set about with some strong thread, a very long needle and a complicated version of dot-to-dot pictures to give the facial contours.

I have to confess to being a little scared of this doll and I think that it's because the face is too life-like, which should be a huge compliment to Kathryn.  I made two faces but opted to use a blank canvas face with only a minimum amount of shading.  My doll is a Patchwork Sprite sewing a small piece of work.  She has a skirt made from some knitted wool/wire, embellished with trimmings and tiny cotton-reel earings.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Wax lyrical

I have been a great fan of dyeing and printing since I realised that it would free me up from all my self-imposed constraints of neatness and perfection.  Last week I had my first foray into Batik and I discovered that there is a whole new level of serendipity with this technique!

For the uninitiated, Batik is a Javanese method of wax resist dyeing involving hot wax and a small metal funnel called a tjanting which is used to apply the wax to cloth.  After a quick practice with the tool on a piece of rough paper I thought I had got the measure of a tjanting.  With my white cotton fabric stretched over a frame I started to work in what I thought were loose and artistic swirls.  But the combination of absorbent fabric and free-flowing wax required a lot more skill than I could muster on a hot Friday morning.

The results are very primitive but the veined appearance, which is achieved by cracking the wax prior to dipping in a final bath of dark coloured dye, made my sample look like an illuminated manuscript or a stained glass window.  Unusually, I chose to work in bright colours for a change and do you know, I quite like my bold turquoise and purple cloth with highlights of yellow and green.

Saturday, 13 July 2013


I have a bad habit of doodling, especially in meetings or when I'm talking on the phone.  This week's art is part collage, part line drawing but all very loose and relaxed - just like a doodle.

I chose New York as my subject because my daughter has just finished singing in Leeds Youth Opera's production of Carmen which was staged in Spanish Harlem.  The gritty grey and black colours of the set and costumes were punctuated with flashes of red.  These gradually increased in number as the story of love and betrayal unfolded.

As luck would have it I have reached the mid point of my sketch book and it has a lovely red cord running through it.  I started my work by laying down torn fragments of The New York Times.  Then I drew an outline of New York skyscrapers in black drawing pen.  I didn't want it to be too architectural so I kept it loose and doodle-like.  Finally I have added a crimson flower (which will be pressed and dried) which was so symbolic of Carmen's love for Don Jose.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Body of Proof

This week my work area (sadly I don't have a studio so it's just a space on the dining room table) resembles a bizarre CSI case.  There are body parts all around, a pair of haemostats, needles and a monumentally big bag of stuffing!  The truth is I've been learning how to make art dolls with Kathryn Thompson.  These beautifully constructed bodies are a great way to display small pieces of work or samples that you don't quite know what to do with and are languishing at the bottom of your sewing box.

Kathryn is a generous teacher, sharing her skills and experience as well as a host of shopping tips.  It's been a crazy weekend and I've still got a lot of homework to do before my next class in a couple of weeks.  Now all I need is some inspiration for how to complete my little friend.