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.

Alford Arts…..

Once again I find myself playing catch-up as the time has flown by and I realised I’ve not posted for three months!

August 16th was the preview evening for the newly opened Alford Arts, a beautiful gallery next door but one to the Craft Market Shop in Alford, Lincolnshire. I had dithered as to whether or not to put my work in here as I didn’t want to pull out of the shop and it didn’t seem to make financial sense having work in the two spaces that were so close together. At the last minute I decided to give it a go and it was really encouraging to have my favourite Rockpool Bag sell on the opening night!

Staffed by volunteers Alford Arts is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10am – 4pm and showcases a good mix of styles, techniques and mediums created entirely by Lincolnshire Artists. I am one of only two textile artists currently exhibiting and selling in there, the other is my friend Evelyn Jennings who creates the most wonderful embroidery’s on hand painted silk fabric such as these two, On The Steps and Hedgerow.

The following photos were taken back in August and I’m pleased to say that several of my pieces have since sold including the Monstera.

You might remember the hexagon samples I made for one of the Felt & Fibre Studio challenges. I removed the glass from a pair of oval frames, sanded and painted them white and adapted the hexagons to fit.

These are just a few of the other works including ceramics, glass, wood carvings, paintings and prints. If you’re in the area it’s well worth a visit. You never know, you might just see something that takes your fancy and, if you do, you will be supporting a local artist!

Alford Arts also offers a range of art workshops which are held in the gallery on a Sunday and Monday. Visit the Alford Craft Market Website for more info or to make a booking.

EYE’s Residential Weekend…..

It’s been a long time coming but last weekend I taught my first face to face workshop of 2021 at Cober Hill near Scarborough. Originally booked for summer 2020, this residential workshop for the East Yorkshire Embroiderers had to be carried over to this year due to the Covid lockdown restrictions.

I did wonder if it was too soon for some and if numbers would be depleted but it turned out the ladies were very keen to get back to normal! Nineteen of the twenty ladies booked for the weekend retreat turned up, sixteen came to do the workshop and three came simply to chill.

Cober Hill was built in 1890 and was purchased by Arnold Rowntree, former Liberal Member of Parliament for York, and nephew of the chocolate manufacturer Joseph Rowntree, in March 1920. Rowntree had a vision for it “to be a place of joy and beauty, …a centre of refreshment and inspiration for many of those engaged in difficult public services… I hope experiments in Weekend Schools, Winter and Summer Schools of various kinds and of longer or shorter duration may also be tried there…” The venue, with its gardens, tennis court, croquet lawn, theatre and numerous other communal spaces, offers an annual programme of craft workshops as well as hosting private groups, businesses and schools.

The theme for our weekend was “trees” and the aim was for the students to combine layers of fabric and paint with machine and hand stitching. The finished work could then either be backed as a quilt or mounted in a frame.

After dinner on the Friday evening the group were shown examples of my “tree themed” work and I talked through the techniques I had used to create them. The ladies then started to plan their designs based on images they had brought for inspiration. Not everyone wanted to do trees, one lady chose to use the techniques discussed to do a moon gazing hare while another went completely “off piste” with her abstract take on an owl!

Maggie went her own way with an Owl
Melanie painting her background layer.
Dorothy and Debra painting their backgrounds.
Ann laying down the background for her trees.
Rachel’s background is painted and now she’s working on her foreground layers.
Sandra adding detail to her foreground trees.

With the bulk of the painting completed and dried on Friday evening the ladies could concentrate on layering and stitching their fabrics on the Saturday.

Hilary’s background has been painted and now she is layering up her sheer fabrics to create depth to her forest.
The moon gazing Hare is starting to take shape.
Dorothy’s forest is pinned and ready for stitching.
Evelyn’s work in progress.

I think the surprise of the weekend was Melanie who only came to Cober Hill to keep Ann, her grandma, company. This young lady doesn’t have the use of a sewing machine and had never done any free motion stitching before…..she borrowed Ann’s machine and took to it like a duck to water!

Melanie’s lone tree is starting to take form.
Rachel adding her gate and railings.
Ruth is beginning to add hand stitched detail to her tree.
Debra used lots of free motion stitch on her version of a tree canopy.
Using the same image as Debra for inspiration, Carol created a tree canopy in autumn colours.
Judy took her inspiration from my Walk in the Forest.
Hilary made good use of zig zig free motion stitch for her background trees.
Margaret did her take on my Three Tall Trees.
Dorothy added hand embroidery for her foreground grasses and flowers.
Melanie’s finished work…..fantastic to think this was her first attempt at machine sewing and hand embroidery!
Rhona’s moon gazing Hare….what this image doesn’t show clearly is the addition of black beads which adds texture and sparkle when you see it close up.
Close up of Sandra’s finished trees.

What I hadn’t realised at the outset was that none of these lady’s had done anything like this before, so for some it had been a steep learning curve! It was great to see everyone throwing themselves into the task of painting, layering and stitching and the results speak for themselves! By the time we left Cober Hill on the Sunday there had been some terrific work created. I hope some of my students will continue to develop these techniques alongside their more traditional skills. At least one of them has since bought herself a soldering iron for doing more of this kind of work which was music to my ears!

I just want to say a huge thank you to the EYE’s group for inviting me back to teach their 2021 residential and for being such willing students and wonderful company. I shall look forward to working with you again at some point in the future.

The EYE’s class of 2021

Final Show…..

No, not my final show! This is the final show from members of the now defunct (CCN) Contemporary Craft Network. The group disbanded in 2019 but five of us have got together for one last time to exhibit at the beautiful Sam Scorer Gallery on Drury Lane in Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter. The exhibition is free admission, open 10am – 4pm and runs from today until the 20th June. (There is a sixth person mentioned on the poster but unfortunately Andrew had to pull out at the last minute)

We set up yesterday and it’s looking great! There are two feltmakers, myself and fellow IFA member Moira West. There are two glass makers, Kevin Wallhead and Kate Sell, and two mixed media artists, myself and Christine Plummer. The nice thing is that although some of us share a passion for the same medium/craft, everyone of us has a totally different approach and a different style. When combined this has resulted in an interesting mix and what we are hoping will be a very successful show.

If you are reading this and you are local, or even further afield and fancy a day out in Lincoln, it would be great to have you visit. There are lots of other attractions in the area including a wealth of independent shops and bars, our fabulous Cathedral and Castle, the Little Red Gallery, St Martins Gallery and Harding House….all within walking distance of the Sam Scorer Gallery. With the exception of today and the 18th there will be a different artist on duty all day every day so why not come along, see their work and learn all about their craft.

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.

Wearable Art…..

One of my favourite pastimes has to be creating wet felted jewellery. I love the sculptural aspect of felting and when this is combined with small wearable items like necklaces and bangles, each one becomes a miniature piece of sculptural, wearable art.

These pieces were created early on during the lockdown when I came to realise that I was never happier than when I was working with lots of texture and a very simple monotone colour palette. In truth I’ve always known this but somehow it’s been amplified with spending much more time in the studio and noticing that the more colourful work was jarring with me!

The Superfine Merino necklaces are embellished with stitch, beading and tiny pieces of Nuno and finished with metal chain fasteners. The great thing about this technique is that each piece is totally unique, you could never have two pieces alike.

Shadows…..

Although there were many negative sides to “lockdown”, for many of us, there were also lots of positives. On the one hand all of my classes, exhibitions and shows had to be cancelled which was very depressing. One the other hand, it meant I now had unlimited time for walking with Maddie, my staffy boxer cross, which was uplifting. I’m sure a lot of us started to notice things we would otherwise have simply passed by, like these wonderful shadows cast by the trees.

Shadows cast by the trees on my morning walk
The shadows which were the inspiration for the design

I decided to use these shadows as inspiration for an abstract wet felted Wallhanging. The fibres used are Merino and Viscose and it’s been embellished with free motion stitch, hand spun yarn (my first attempt at spinning!) and Colonial Knots. The finished piece is mounted on board and measures 42cm x 58cm. It will form part of my “Fabric & Fibre of Nature” exhibition at The Quilt & Stitch Show, Uttoxeter in April 2021.

Adding Free Motion Stitch
Adding hand stitched Colonial Knots
Shadows – Fabric & Fibre of Nature

Paint, Layer & Stitch…..

Today I was invited down to North Kilworth, Leicestershire to work with fourteen ladies from the textile group “Textend”. We spent the day painting fabric, layering with sheers and tulle and stitching to create our tree themed landscapes. Some ladies worked from imagination while others took inspiration from photos or cards. Although there is still work to be done, as you can see, the pieces are looking great. Many thanks to Ruth for inviting me and look forward to seeing some of you again next week.