Sunday, 29 September 2013

Family matters

I had an unexpected visit from the Partridge Family this week.  Those of us of a certain age will remember a popular children's TV programme but it was actually a visit from a dozen or more little birds.  They pecked and poked their way around my patio looking for seeds and other tasty morsels and then, just as soon as they arrived, they had gone. If I hadn't been walking past the window at that precise time I would never have known they had called. 

They are chubby little birds and quite inquisitive. Their plumage is beautifully marked in shades of blue/grey and brown.  I snapped a few photos before they left and now I have been trying to draw them. I started with water-colour pencils but I found them too abrasive for the soft linen paper of my sketch book so I reverted to my usual choice of ink pen and paint. 

I'm thinking of reworking the drawing in the style of Nicola Javis as seen in the July/August issue of Embroidery magazine but that will be next weeks project. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Love letters


Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Finding the right present is always a tricky business so I went for a quirky personalised approach. I'd found an old mill bobbin wound with coloured string in the fabulous Imaginarium Gallery in Haworth but wasn't quite sure what I would do with it.

I've been using different typefaces in another project so decided to draw letters on small pieces of cartridge paper spelling out the word Anniversary. On the reverse side of each card I have written a short love letter.  I threaded the cards onto the bobbin string and hey presto! instant gift. Just a little imagination and a lot of love.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Fruits of my labours

More dabbling with devore this week. I led a mini-workshop as a taster session for my friends and to help me plan for a full-blown affair next month.

This technique requires a special kind of mixed fibre cloth. Silk-viscose velvet is the most common but I also use satin and georgette versions to great effect.  Chemicals are used to burn away cellulosic fibres (viscose in this case but it attacks cotton and linen too) leaving the silk mesh behind. You can play around with the chemical reactions and create a resist by applying alkaline dyes first so that when you print or paint over with (acidic) devore paste, one will neutralise the other.  Sounds like a chemistry lesson doesn't it?  

I like the fact that you have to think and plan carefully to achieve the effect you want.  It requires some mental gymnastics because the places where the devore paste is applied will be eaten away so often the design needs to be reversed.

My photos show this week's sample which was inspired by the rich crop of blackberries that adorn the walls and hedgerows of my walks.  I printed blackberry shapes first and then painted a tangle of briars in a vibrant rust colour.  Next I applied the devore paste with a brush, working freehand in loose leafy shapes.  Once I had activated the paste and removed the cellulose fibres I painted the background with a mixture of Autumn colours. The viscose fibres absorb less of the dye leaving a silvery shimmer to the pile.  Mist and mellow fruitfulness! 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

A need to communicate

That's what it's all about isn't?  A need to communicate, to tell the World about what we are doing.  That's why I'm writing this blog.  Well here is a tale of a story....

For the last three months, I've been involved in a project initiated by Skipton Puppet Festival.  The idea is to tell the story of how our local Asian community came to Skipton from Mirpur in Kashmir, Northern Pakistan using a series of textile pictures.  The project is led by artist Jackie Lunn and is being made by the Broughton Road Women's Group with support from the Embroiderer's Guild.

It's been a fascinating experience learning how the government of Pakistan offered UK work vouchers in compensation for displacing hundreds of families when the huge Mangla dam was constructed in the 1960's.  The men left their life in the fields and came to work in the carpet mills and tanneries in Yorkshire. Wives soon followed and children were born in the UK but the families keep in close contact with their relatives back in Mirpur by phone and video links.

The story cloths have been made with felted wool and hand dyed calico and we are in the process of adding details and embellishments to complete the story.  My photo shows a smart phone and a computer that I have made by layering up pieces of fabric with Bondaweb. Parveen, one of my new friends, has been busy sewing tiny buttons onto the computer.  I have added some stitches round the edge of the smart phone but I don't want to spoil the glistening surface that I had created when I added a fine layer of crystal organza fabric.

The story cloths are nearly finished so if you're in the area why not come along and see them.  They will be on display throughout the Festival which takes place from 27th-29th September 2013.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Remembering Bracken

My sketch book this week has a rather melancholy feel as I remember my lovely fat cat, Bracken, who died last Friday. 

I've tried to capture the stripes and swirls and spots of his coat but its difficult to recreate nature's patterns in simple watercolours. I've added some splashes around the background because I wanted to give a lived-in appearance.

Mr Beebs, as he was affectionately known, did not do much except eat and sleep and this probably contributed to his untimely death. His favourite place was on the back of the sofa and he managed to squash the cushions down to create a kind of hammock. But if there was a shaft of sunshine anywhere in the house then it was a safe bet that he would find it, stretching out to his full length and exposing his gloriously spotted tum.  This is how I will remember him.