Friday, 27 March 2015

Conundrum of the cobbler's children

Rock pool embroidery

How can I have the patience to take over 4h to stitch the above, incorporating a carefully selected piece of beach glass, bullion stitches of up to 25 needle wraps, pistil stitch, buttonhole bars, french knots, colonial knots, spider's web, woven wheel and yet not find 20 minutes to repair the hems on two pairs of trousers?  Classic case of cobbler's children.

I love this spring evening light that allows the texture to really show.  My own little Durdle Door on these detail photos.

Rock pool embroidery

Rock pool embroidery

Precious beach glass at right

Rock pool embroidery

Rock pool embroidery

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Intriguing, eclectic, bonkers and free

Although 2 Temple Place is only open to the public intermittently, it is worth making a special trip when it is.  I've blogged before about my first visit and that sense of wonder is still there from the moment of seeing the little cherubs with telephones. at the front door.  The current exhibition, " Cotton to Gold" focusses on collections gathered by industrialists who were prominent when the British cotton trade was at its peak.  As ever, the curators mush have had a lot of discussion about what to bring to London to showcase these collections.  The selection on display has put the Haworth Museum on my list of places to visit.  If you like Tiffany glass, beautiful beetles, stuffed birds, illuminated books, Japanese prints visit before 19th April.

peacock vase

Monday, 23 March 2015

Precision piecing - "finished is better than perfect"

The weekend's sewing had moments of frustration as precision piecing once again proved not to be my forte.  Still, with the mantra of "finished is better than perfect" I got on with it, despite NATS best efforts at destroying quality of life in west London.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

White on white

Two striking clothing contrasts at the V and A this week, both with white as the prominent colour.

Burqa from 1850


The tear-down of the wedding dress exhibition. 


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Alexander McQueen's birthday is today

When I booked my ticket on 4th April 2014 for the Savage Beauty exhibition, I did not realise that I had booked to go on the day that would have been Alexander McQueen's 46th birthday.  This is my 4th clothing-based exhibition at the V and A and it really does live up to the hype, and I am not surprised to see that the exhibition has already even extended until the 2nd August.

Suzy Menkes has written a very perceptive review, with excellent photographs, here.  As a devoted McQueen fan, I am familiar with his training in Savile Row, Angels and Bermans, Central St Martins and his work at Givenchy, but Menkes makes a fair point that none of this is really explained in the exhibition.  I think it is critical to understand McQueen's path into couture, to really appreciate his technical skill, his cultural context and his breathtaking artistry.  

I would have appreciated more indication of  which pieces he had the actual artisanal as well as the artistic hand, so I could revere even more those where he stitched, cut or slashed the fabric himself.  

The staging of the show is supremely theatrical, many of the garments are not under glass  and viewers can get close enough to see construction seams and embellishments, - the curved French dart was much in evidence as is McQueen's understanding of the properties of the fabrics with which he worked.  I've never seen bias-cut hessian look so elegant.


The V and A seem to have learned from the crush at the Golden Age of Couture  exhibition, and there was less crowding around the exhibits and the flow through the rooms seemed steady and gave everyone enough time to really examine each piece as they wished.  The book to accompany the exhibition, by Claire Wilcox ,is now on my wish list.  No photography in the exhibition, therefore images of my favourites are from the websites that you will find if you click each image, particularly the Met museum in New York.  

I do have an ambivalent relationship with couture, loving the artistry, the ingenuity and the incredible fabrics, but being very uneasy about the uber-luxury market to which it is now pitched.  That being said, I would still urge you to go, and then go again.




Tonal London and the dementia darnings

At the painting class today, we were going to be looking at the tonal still-lives of the Italian painter Morandi.   Before that I went to City Hall to see the Dementia Darnings by Jenni Dutton.  A grey day ,and the walk there, gave the opportunity for some tonal studies of my own concerning light and shape.


HMS Belfast 2




The Dementia Darnings are remarkable pieces of work and really  convey the fading of a life, not into obscurity, but into a different place.  There is a tremendous sense of pathos and surprisingly, calm, in the later pieces.  The exhibition is small, and on until 27th March, but so worth a visit.

Jenni Dutton darning dementia

An added bonus was a little display in the lower ground floor of City Hall, called "Second Skin" highlighting the work of four Irish textile designers.  I absolutely loved the work of Jennifer Rothwell, whose recent collection was inspired by stained glass.  The colours on the silk were a vibrant contrast to the rest of the sombre colour scheme of the day.


I wasn't so convinced by the wearability of the wooden shoulder pads by Lennon Courtney, but they were beautifully made.




Monday, 16 March 2015

Testing, testing….

The big project is at the stage where i need to decide on an appliqué method, so the weekend was spent sampling and testing.  At least these little pieces can be used to make more cards.  These are a combination of: hand-applique, middle right; blanket stitch appliqué, upper right an lower left; machine triple stitch, upper and middle left and lower right.  Surprisingly, the machine triple stitch is looking like the best option.

Hearts, tones and stitch

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Creative and moral influences

I seem to have had  week full of creative and moral influences, and it is only Thursday.  The creative influences started with a visit to the British Library.  I am embarrassed to admit that despite liven gin London for 30 years, and regularly passing the library, I have never been in .  I went to hopefully see the original manuscript for Alice in Wonderland, which was " Alice's Adventures Underground" but it was not on display.  There were many other marvels, including an original piece of the manuscript for The Messiah.  The building itself was wonderful, with pieces of art dotted about.  Good to see this anamorphic artwork by Patrick Hughes in the basement.  Photos form my phone, so a bit blurry.



Out on the street, on the way to the Diwana Bhel Poori house for lunch and some intriguing grids and reflections




Then on to the painting course, where we did more colour mixing, and then a colour study of a shell.  It was only when we were about half way through the exercise that it dawned on me that this was exactly the same exercise that I did in the "Embroiderer's Ledger"  course with Karen Ruane, only using paint rather than thread. 

Source material

Shell for colour study

Resulting colour study, needs a bit more pink.

Colour study of shell

The day finished with a sobering talk from two of the volunteers from Fine Cell Work, who teach prisoners how to embroider.  It was sad to hear that the charity can only support working in 25 prisons, particularly in light of some of the letters written by the prisoner participants about how the stitching had helped them in so many ways.  There is an exhibition of the quilts made by prisoners currently at the Quilt Museum in York.

It was also an opportunity to borrow the new books by Linda Seward, " The Ultimate Guide to Art Quilting".  At first glance, this is a very thorough introduction to many of the techniques used in art quilts.  Linda has continued to use the diagram format as in her previous book, The Complete Book of Patchwork, Quilting and Appliqué. As I refer to that book often, I might be buying this one as well.

I have also been following the work of embroiderer Rebecca Harris recently, particularly her spat with Facebook about whether her embroidery " Symbiosis" was an "overly sexual" image.  She is now setting up a website, " StitchingScience"  featuring the work of professional textile artists who use science as their inspiration.  It has really made me think about how to better link my science knowledge and my stitching, as I have not really done that to any great extent.

My own stitching this week has been to complete more cards for our group's exhibition in October, using a combination of appliqué, embroidery and a bit of iridescent paintsticks.


Stitched cardsStitched cardsR1034020

and…….. I am going to see this next week.  That will be inspiration overload.



Monday, 9 March 2015

Contemporary textile fair

I had an inspiring visit to the Contemporary Textile Fair this weekend.  Not as busy as I have seen it before, both in terms of numbers of exhibitors and number of visitors.  While this was disappointing for the exhibitors, it gave much more space to see the work well, and to spend time talking to people whose work caught my eye.  Some of my long term favourites were there, Steph Littlechild, Penny Seume, and Emma Burton, and some new names, Geoff Stocker, Lindsey Tyson, and Kate Wakely.  Gorgeous bags, scarves and clothing from makers Liz Kemp ( who uses offcuts of tweed woven by her sister and used to make very upmarket jackets), Cecile Jeffrey knitwear, Henrietta Park and Katy Broomfield, who was in the studio when I was studying at Morley College.
Did I buy anything?  Yes, 4 Christmas presents and a beautiful linen and leather bag for me, myself, I.  It was destined to be really, as it matched the leggings I was wearing, post-yoga , perfectly.  Photo to come.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Trillions of triangles

I have been stitching my way through strips and strips of triangles for my big project.

My ideas are fairly fixed now, and the next big step is for me to cut a large curve through the strips and just stitch it to the checkerboard.  I've been researching ways to cut and stitch curves, but most of them seem to be on a small scale, or freehand and shallow, so I'm now referring to my dressmaking sources for suggestions on how to stitch precise, longer curves.  I may go with stay stitching the edges before I stitch the curved edges together.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Tones and tantrums

More tonal painting, which was very difficult today as the light kept changing in the studio.  How those contestants coped doing their "en plain air" paintings on the Great British Paint Off  I do not know.  Three vases, each with their own challenges.

The first where I had to force myself to accept that it was not symmetrical and that there was a shiny surface behind it

Tonal painting short vase

The second where I could not get the neck proportions right or the sides symmetrical and just went with what was on the page after about 10 attempts

Tonal painting long-necked vase

and the third a glass vase which I am quite pleased with.

Tonal painting glass vase

I've noticed that all of the tops of my vessels tend to slope down on the left hand side, so I'll need to consciously try to overcorrect this.  I wonder if it is something to do with having a dominant left eye ( which I found out the one and only time I went clay pigeon shooting - disastrous!)