Monstera…..

Where did January go? With the lifting of Covid restrictions and things starting to get back to normal the time is passing in a blur. It’s terrific to be takings bookings for classes once again and I’m looking forward to working with new groups this year. It’s also going to be great, after two years of cancelled exhibitions, to be showing my work at the Quilt & Stitch Village at Uttoxeter in April and the Big Textile Show at Leicester in October.

At the Waltham Textile group we normally have a biannual exhibition of our work but, due to Covid, it was cancelled in 2020 rescheduled for 2021 and then had to be cancelled again. It’s now been confirmed for August but in the meantime I’ve sold my main “Leaf” themed piece made for that show so recently made this mixed media “Monstera” to replace it.

I bought a 40cm x 80cm canvas with the intention of painting Monstera leaves on it and then adding a 3D Felted leaf. After drawing a template onto paper and offering it up to plan the layout I changed my mind about painting onto the canvas. It’s not something I’ve done before and the surface appeared to be a bit too textured for the look I wanted to create. Instead I sketched the leaves onto a piece of white cotton fabric, outlined them with an Inktense pencil and added a little shading. The aim was for very simple, very smooth, perfectly formed leaves looking more like curved metal than the foliage on my cheese plant. I think this was influenced by the very smooth metallic looking Tyvek seed pods I’ve been making lately.

The Monstera in our lounge looks a bit neglected, to the point that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it for this post! Its been with me for more years than I can remember, moving from house to house, and I thought it would be nice to make a piece of work inspired by this plant….or should I say the plant it used to be!!

I don’t consider myself a painter but I do like painting on to fabric. If you need to paint precise lines a good tip is to use aloe vera (by far the cheapest) or acrylic medium instead of water when applying acrylics on fabric. This keeps the paint where you want it to be and avoids it bleeding into other areas. I managed to get a tiny bit of black paint on the lower section of the fabric but stopped short of starting all over again when I realised the felted leaf would cover it up!

My paper template for the painted leaves was 13” x 18” so to make the felted leaf I multiplied by 1.4 enlarging it to 18.5” x 24” to allow for shrinkage. Layer one was a very yellowish green Merino (might have been lichen but not certain). Layer two was a combination of various shades of grey with the yellowish green running down the centre. This was topped with a layer of dark green Merino and Ireland Viscose all around the edge and snippets of gold Viscose down the centre. These images don’t give a true representation of colours but you get the gist.

After wetting out I measured the fibres and found they had spread to approx 20” x 27”. At the fulling stage, every now and then, I put the original template on top to check for size and ensure I was keeping to the right shape.

Once it had shrunk to the correct size it was left to dry. The next stage was to add wires to the back of the leaf so it could be shaped. This could possibly have been done with directional laying of the fibres and lots of fulling but I wanted the option of posing the leaf once it was attached to the canvas and wires are a good way of doing this.

The wires were spaced out and attached on the reverse using a zigzag stitch which also formed the veins on the front side. You can see that bright yellowish green colour on the reverse of the leaf. Once that was done it was just a matter of cutting into the felt to form the individual leaves and the characteristic little holes of the cheese plant before attaching to the canvas.

Inspired by Nature…..3D Textiles

My recent Forest Floor workshop for the ladies of Snape Textiles up in Bedale has reignited my interest in working with Tyvek fabric. It’s a material I hadn’t used for a little while but making a tiny seed pod a few weeks ago, as a sample for their class, has led to more, and larger, pieces and an idea for a new workshop I’m calling Inspired by Nature…..3D Textiles.

These pieces all start with a wire armature wrapped in hand painted Tyvek fabric which is then distressed with a heat gun.

What I particularly like about this technique is the metallic look that can be achieved…..although they are strong, and look as if they are heavy, these pieces actually have the weight and feel of paper.

The first Inspired by Nature – 3D Textile class will be held at Belchford Village Hall LN96LJ on the 22nd January 2022 so if you are interested in learning this technique, or want to know more about the workshop please get in touch via the contact form.

Forest Floor…..

I recently had the pleasure of running two consecutive one-day workshops for members of the Snape Textile Group up in the beautiful village of Bedale, North Yorkshire.

The group had booked my Forest Floor workshop which covers lots of different techniques for working with heat manipulative materials and creating the kind of stuff you find littering the forest floor such as leaves, twigs, bark and seed pods. With 30 ladies interested it was decided to split this fast paced class into two days to ensure all of them had the best learning experience and no one got left behind!

Real bark v fake bark

After each demonstration the students set to painting, stitching, wrapping and distressing (using heat guns and soldering irons) their Tyvek and Lutradur to create the various elements.

This is a sample based workshop and students are not necessarily expected to produce a finished piece of work by the end of it when it’s booked as a one day class. We do discuss how to pull everything together and create a suitable background but this is something that can be done afterwards at your own pace. If a group particularly want to see it through to the end it can either be booked as a two day class or we simply limit the amount of leaves made on the day to get a finished piece done. Yes, it’s those leaves that tend to hook folk in and then the time just disappears!

It was a full on weekend with the ladies producing an array of wonderful work and, hopefully, having a lot of fun in the process. This was the first time some had used a heat gun or a soldering iron but going by the response it won’t be the last!

Thanks to all for your enthusiasm, hard work and good company and a special thanks to Sarah Lowe for hosting me for the weekend. I’m looking forward to working with you all again at some point in the future.

The Art of Transformation…..

Yesterday I visited the Sam Scorer Gallery on Drury Lane in Lincoln to see their latest exhibition, The Art of Transformation, by Horncastle printmaker Sinclair Ashman.

Sinclair says “I am an experimental fine art printmaker, but prints are not the only things I make’.

“The Art of Transformation will be a review of my latest work in burnt reliefs, metallics and traditional collograph printmaking over the last two years. It will also be an overview of selected prints from 2013 to the present. “

This exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the methods and materials that Sinclair uses as a printmaker and mixed media artist. What I found particularly interesting was seeing many of his beautiful, textural collograph plates, or lamina, which could themselves be hung as a work of art.

Circle I lamina 54cm x 54cm
Circle I was designed in response to the theme of “symbol” and decorated with raffia and hand stitched threads.
The Young Moon lamina
The Young Moon Print

More recently he has been experimenting with applying intense heat to print paper and metal leaf to create the “Treasure” series. Heat from a paint stripper gun reacts with the composition of the leaf, resulting in vibrant, iridescent colours and singes the edges of the paper. “To date, ‘Treasure’ pieces have taken two different forms: images printed from multiple, segmented plates and non-printed pieces made with burnt copper, silver and gold metal leaf.”

Elemental 68cm x 47cm mixed media

Its an inspiring exhibition and it was great to get to speak with Sinclair about the different aspects of his work.

The Art of Transformation runs until the 7th November.

Connected…..

I’ve had the theme “connected” running around in my head for while and decided to use it to experiment with free motion stitch. Each of these shapes has been made using FM on water soluble fabric. The shapes were then connected to a painted vilene background, suspended using FM.

Roots….

My latest work, Roots, was made in response to a challenge set by the Waltham Textile Group who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill.  This is an exhibiting group and, like many such groups, we all aim to produce a piece of work to a particular theme.  The work will be displayed together at our bi-annual exhibition at the Windmill next August.  Our current theme, leaves, couldn’t suit me better!  There are absolutely no limitations for this main piece, it can be any size, any technique, 3D or 2D.  This freedom in itself can be a headache because there are so many directions you can go in……..consequently I’ve yet to start that piece!

Roots – a Waltham Textile Group Challenge.

Running alongside our main theme we also have other, more specific, “challenges”.  One of them is to produce three A4 pieces of work using three colours, each piece to predominantly feature one of those colours plus a little of the other two.  This can be any style, any technique and any subject matter. You can see how I approached this challenge in a previous post “work in progress” and Roots is the result of that challenge.

Originally I made three wet felted backgrounds to which I was going to add lots of texture with fibre and stitch.  The felt was put to one side for a few weeks while I did other things and by the time I went back to it I had changed my mind (surprise, surprise!). Instead of using the felt I reached for my roll of Lutradur, practising what I preach and using the techniques and materials demonstrated in my Forest Floor Workshop.  

Detail from Roots showing the Lutradur leaves

It turned out to be a very mixed media piece with felted pebbles, free motion stitched ferns and weeds and Lutradur leaves and forest floor.  The only items not hand made are three small brown Beech tree pods.

With this challenge finished its back to trying out ideas and working up samples for my main exhibition piece.  I’ve no idea how that will look as yet but I’m thinking along the lines of it being “abstract”…..that thought may change several times between now and completion!

Work in Progress…..

Last year I joined a group of creative ladies who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill.  As well as working on our own projects we have a number of set “challenges” requiring us to work to a certain theme. This week I began one those challenges which is to produces three A4 size pieces of work using just three colours. Each piece is to have one predominant colour, plus a small amount of the other two. The format can be landscape or portrait but all three will be displayed together. The design, techniques and materials are entirely up to the individual.

My first thought was that I wanted my 3 pieces to be joined together and initially I was thinking along the lines of a leaf motif, using the veins to span the gaps between the work. The first design was for a very simple “spear” shaped leaf.

The second idea was to simplify it even more and loose the outline of the leaf. The background would possibly be heavyweight interfacing or Lutradur and the veins would be free motion stitched, spanning the gaps by stitching onto dissolvable fabric.
In the meantime I happened to take my dog for a walk in the woods at Hubbard’s Hills in Louth when I had a lightbulb moment! There were some wonderful exposed tree roots at the top of the hill and I suddenly saw these as being the joining element of my 3 x A4’s. The design now was for a “forest floor”.
Sketchbook page showing a design for piece of textile art
I realised that I would need a sturdy backing so I’ve wet felted these using Bergschaf fibres and they will be individually mounted onto stiff card…..at least that’s the plan so far! There will be little background showing on pieces two and three but far more on piece one so I included some thick cords under that sheet of felt to indicate buried roots.
Wet felted Bergschaf fibres
The tree roots above ground have an aluminium wire as their core, wrapped with wadding and strips of medium weight Lutradur before being painted grey.
Tree roots made from aluminium wire and Lutradur fabric
I’ve started making the weeds using free motion stitch on dissolvable fabric but I will look at alternative materials, possibly Lutradur, to introduce different textures, create more bulk and not least to speed up the weed making process!
Making weeds using free motion embroidery
The fallen leaves at the base of the roots will be FM stitched on Lutradur. Once they’ve been cut out using a soldering iron and heat distressed to make them curl they will be painted in varying shades of gold.
Lutradur leaves
I’ve managed to get a couple of other group members to send me images of their work in progress…..
Jacky approached the challenge by choosing blue, green and gold as her colours and using the “stack and whack” method to cut them up. After selecting her fabrics they were cut up quite randomly and then machined together in strips. The three sets were then layed on top of each other and sliced through again. The yellow and green shapes in the resulting strips made her think of plant pots and this led to her theme of “neglected pots and plants”. In this piece Jacky has added an appliqué cactus and free motion stitched the neglected straggly plants on the left. This one isn’t far off being finished but Ive been told the other two are still piles of fabric on the workroom table!
Carole has chosen to use a combination of plain and patterned fabrics in her chosen colour scheme of red, blue and yellow. Each of her A4’s feature a different piecing technique i.e. strips, curves and crazy patchwork. Again this is a work in progress but already you can see how individual members are putting their own mark on their work and how different everyone’s finished work is going to be. I will post images of the completed challenges next time.

Forest Floor…..

I’m currently working on samples for a heat manipulative mixed media workshop with the theme  “Forest Floor”.  This is the first sample in the series in which I’ve used painted and heat distressed Tyvek and Lutradur, combined with natural tree bark, a leaf and hand embroidery.

The first of the workshops will be held at Simply Stitch, East Keswick on April 7th & 8th.  On day one we will be painting on, and experimenting with, various heat manipulative materials.  Using an iron, soldering iron and heat tool we will be working with Tyvek paper and fabric, various weights of Lutradur and polyester.  There will be the opportunity to include hand and machine stitching in your work.

On day two we will use the samples we have made, or create new ones, adding stitching and found objects to build up a layered, highly textured piece of work inspired by the “Forest Floor”.  For more info or to book a place contact Nicola on 07969 578289 or email nicola@simplystitch.co.uk

This is a photograph of two autumn leaves and a leaf skeleton I made from Lutradur.

Autumn Leaf skeleton made from Lutradur

On April 25th I will be running a one day “Forest Floor” workshop at All Sewn Up by Debs in Horncastle.  For this session we will be using the iron, soldering iron and heat tool to manipulate Tyvek paper and lightweight Lutradur.  Once they’ve been distressed these materials will be combined with natural tree bark and hand stitching to create our beautiful, layered Forest Floor.  This class is suitable for all abilities and is a great introduction to working with Lutradur and Tyvek.  For more information or to book a place call Debs on 01507 524566.

 

Artvango & The Finished Vessel…..

Last weekend a friend and I drove down to Knebworth to see the “Artists in Residence” at Artvango.  It was my first visit and turned out to be a really worthwhile day.  The three textile artists demonstrating their skills were Clare Bullock (Feltmaker), Sharon Osbourne (Mixed Media) and Lynda Monk (Thermofax).  Not only was it interesting to watch these artists at work but it was wonderful how they were so enthusiastic to share their advice and tips so freely.

While I was there I had my grey/lemon vessel in mind and within the first two minutes of arriving Clare had given me the answer to a problem I was having using synthetic organza with Merino tops.  I wanted to include the organza as a another texture but I’d found that my fibres were not migrating through the fabric enough to bond the two together.  Clare explained that using a very thin layer of fibres and rubbing, not rolling, was the best way to approach it, and it worked.  Thanks for that Clare.

In another part of the studio Lynda Monk was demonstrating her use of Thermofax screens and expanding foam on leaf and hexagon shapes cut from Lutradur.  What I found interesting was the fact that the wire she was using to give the leaves their shape wasn’t silver or copper coloured like I had in my workroom, Lynda’s wire was covered with white cotton.  She explained that she uses this so it can be died to match whatever she is making.  Call me sad but I hadn’t seen this stuff before and I was so excited I had to buy some!  That was vessel problem two sorted.  How to hide the wire?  Colour it grey and lemon.

Opposite Lynda was Sharon Osbourne with the most wonderful collection of mixed media work on dispay.  Sharon was demonstrating the use of wax crayons with rubbing plates to create patterns on fabric, the crayon is then sealed with a medium.  I was standing next to another lady who, like me, works with LD students and we both agreed that having spoken to Sharon we were coming away with several ideas that we could use in future workshops.  A couple of days later I tried the wax crayon technique at one of the care homes where I do craft sessions with LD adults and they loved it!

Anyway, back to the 3d piece.  It’s now finished, compete with coloured wire, organza and felting.  I decided that using all 3 panels would result in a vessel too large for the space I wanted to put it so I only used two of them.  Once the machine stitching was finished the holes were burnt out using a soldering iron and hand stitching was added across the larger openings.  The cotton covered wire was coloured to match the panels and sewn in place using zigzag stitching.  I’m really happy with how this has turned out and it’s something I would definitely like to do more of, particularly incorporating felting into my work and continuing with a more abstract theme.

Finished vessel with the felted bowl which, along with the Flower Tower, provided the initial inspiration.

 

Detail showing the silver coloured organza.

 

Close up showing the burnt out sections which have been decorated with hand sewn threads.