Monday, 10 March 2014

The No-Travel Journal

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You asked how I am doing with making pages for the journal inspired by Mary Ann Moss's "Ticket to Venice" class.   The short answer is GREAT.  I am having a  grand time assembling pages, and I have loved watching her videos.  Now that I am on my own, I was quite inspired to see Mary Ann's travel plan -- taking a trip alone, walking and exploring and photographing by day, journaling by night.  It looks quite feasible and very, very fun.  

But as I do not have any big travel on the agenda soon, I decided to take a more general approach to the journal.  I could not resist also watching the videos for Mary Ann's "Remains of the Day" class which involves a similar journal but using more daily ephemera and piecing the bits together without an overall theme.  

So, as I've said (and as you can see in the little slide show of pages above) I've really been having fun mixing paper scraps and random items.  But I would find it hard to make a travel journal for a specific destination.  I think I would be inclined, while traveling, to gather up lots of papers, take lots of pictures, keep notes or journaling bits on separate cards or in the Midori Travel Journal, and then assemble it all when I get back home. 

But then again, what you are doing looks quite perfect for your Italy trips -- just means leaving a lot more blank pages for insertion of photos and souvenir bits and journaling.  But then making the book doesn't seem like it'd be as much fun.  I will be going up to Washington State in a few weeks and my plan will to be take lots of pictures and collect papers and make a book about it all when I get home.  We'll see how that goes.  

By the way, Mary Ann says in her videos that she prints photos on Staples Matte photo paper.  I bought some and I LOVE how it looks and feels. The photos take on a different look and the weight and texture of the paper makes great book pages.  I can second her recommendation.

I now find myself looking at papers everywhere, seeing it as a potential book page part. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Making my travel journal

Hi Diane,

How are you getting on making your journal for the Ticket to Venice class? I am so glad we signed up for this together. I thought I'd spend an hour today starting to make my signatures and was rather surprised to find when I came up for air it was over three hours later. This is very fun indeed. If messy. My studio was so beautifully tidy when I started....

I have now also signed up for Sketchbook Skool ( despite the irritating name) and as you know that will start just before I go to Bath for a fortnight. So what I wanted was a book that would reflect the kind of holiday I will have and which will have plenty of space to tuck sketches into pockets and to glue them in. I think working on loose scraps and/ or in the perforated sketchbook in my Midori Travellers book will free me from the terror of 'spoiling' a sketchbook. I will have fun combining my urban/ everyday sketching into a scrapbook style visual journal. That gets everything in in one go!
I still need more neutral pages (I think an visit to an art shop for sheets of watercolour paper might be in order one day soon) but here is some eye candy of all the fun I have had so far collating pages and adding pockets and flaps galore. All I need now is for that order of washi to arrive....!

I have some paper bags from previous trips to Bath to use ( above you see the Charndos Deli where we get bread) and I also have memorabilia from when I did a Reading Year at Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights ( below you see a bookmark sent with a note by Mr B himself about the book choice he sent). As I shall be treating myself to a reading spa next time I go, it seems appropriate to use the wrappers and seals in which my books were posted for the journal covers.

I have stuck to my usual brown and green colours, but that suits the colour of Bath stone too. I will be doing a lot of reading so I have added scrapbook papers with letters and have ordered some similar washi tape.

Next to think about covers. I have to wait for my order of linen thread and booktape to arrive before I can bind it anyway.
So, I want to see your pages please!!


Saturday, 22 February 2014


Goodness, who knew that deciding to work on a loose challenge with the theme "doorways" would have pushed you in that direction?  I love what you've done -- the way you've created the graffiti'd doors is really striking and effective.  We have already emailed back and forth about this, but I will add it here in case anyone is reading.  I suggested that you go in with colored pencil or watercolor crayon to add a lot of shadow and detail on the figures, to give them dimension and a level of detail and reality that the graffiti walls have.  I will be very interested to see if you do that, and if so, what results.

As you know, I've not been inspired in the art quilt arena lately, but I hope that working in other media for a while will feed me creatively and I figure it'll all come back around one of these days. That's how it seem to work for me.

But "doorway."  When I suggested it I don't think I had any particular thing in mind except that it did have a literal meaning and various figurative ones that would give us a lot to work with.

I realized that I tend to take a lot of photos of doorways ... here are some, for example.

By the way, do you recognize that center one at the top, in black and white?  I took that when we were at the warming hut in SF together -- I snapped it from where we were sitting.  

And I apparently paint more doorways than I'd realized, too.   I guess that goes with painting houses and other buildings.  Here's a sampling of those: 

But looking at how many doorways made me think it'd be fun to try something I've been thinking about.  I selected a few doorway images, manipulated them in different ways in Photoshop, and then sent them off to to have them printed on a large piece of fabric to work with.  It should be interesting to see how those come out.

By the way, in case you are gnashing your teeth that Spoonflower would not be affordable for you from the UK, I thought I'd mention that Laura Kemshall has started Fingerprint  for "bespoke" printing of one's own images on fabric.

So, I have a bit of a plan for a doorway art quilt, but I will have to see what develops when the fabric arrives.  And meanwhile, just doing that seems to have shaken something loose and I have started in working on a very old UFO to see if I can finish it.  Detail on my blog!  Apparently I have gone through some sort of creative doorway... hee hee hee.

Balti Palace doorway

Hi Diane,
Here is the second doorway quilt I mentioned. This is the one I am most pleased with. Not much to say about it really except that its the most painterly thing I have ever done. If i had been told at school that i could paint with a credit card and my fingers maybe I would have been doing it all my life!

Here is the quilt:

And here is my inspiration picture.

I have already used the woman as a thermofax in my Brick Lane series. (Oh, there's an article about that in this months British Patchwork and Quilting which is fun,)

I am a little suprised to find myself making such literal interpretations of my photos, I have to say, but I really enjoyed doing them.
Maybe there's another one in me yet...!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Doorway : No. 33

Dear Diane,

I am so excited we are starting our new creativity project together! After all our private emails discussing what we are and are not going to be doing let me just check I have this straight (and so readers will know too!):
1. We will take it in turns to pick a theme. The first one is your choice which is 'Doorway'.
2. We will work to that theme for a 2- 3 month period which we will set as we go along to take account of life demands.
3. Any media goes! The only rule is that we have fun exploring what we can do with that theme with the aim of interpreting it in whatever medium is calling us to play at the time.
4. There will be no grand reveal day and no specific size requirements as there were with Twelve by Twelve because this is more about is spurring each other on to learn and grow and experiment to see what we can do. However as work is done or progress is made (or not made!) we will post here about our progression for others to see.

I am actually excited that all our discussions have taken away some of the limits we first discussed. I think that we will spark off each other and that the freedom to be 'muti-potentialite artists' will bring out the best in us. I am particularly glad we will no longer be keeping secrets until the end of the theme period - our discussions about the ups and downs of creativity are really valuable to me.

As you know, as we discussed how this was going to pan out I had some studio time so I was able to get ahead and start on our theme. here is my first work that I have been dying to show you. It is called simply NO 33. The first comment I should make is that the photo illustrates the difficulty of photographing  quilt without getting distortion even when you think the camera is straight. My Dad gifted me a tripod this weekend so I am going to be retaking a lot of photos sometime soon!

This was in the early days when we talked about just doing art quilts and you suggested using a 26 x 36 format. I have to say I like that shape a lot to work with although it proved what I said all along about the one deficiency of my wet studio - the print surface is not big enough!! Its the biggest I could fit in the space of the single garage so I am not complaining but I had to paint my quilt sidewise which was interesting. I am contemplating doing what Annabel Rainbow does and buying a big easel and back board and clipping fabric to it so I can paint vertically.  Maybe you can get table easels large enough so that I can do it in the workbench rather than in the laundry space. I don't know. I shall have to trawl some art supply websites. What a hardship :)

The quilt came from a photo I took on Brick Lane when I did my original research for the big Brick Lane quilt I made last year.

here is the photo:

Dennis wants to share the copyright of this photo because he held the umbrella over my head when I took it! The reason I was in Brick Lane is that I was exploring its potential as a source of material for a theme  of Transition picked by the newly formed Etcetera group of which I am a part. You know I am fascinated with immigration and ethic groups and this picture sums up the departure of the Jewish community who were the life and soul of this area. The Brick Lane locality is now home to a big Asian community mostly from the Sylhet  region of Bangladesh as depicted ( some say inaccurately) in Monica Ali's eponymous book Brick Lane. I love that book by the way - have you read it? its so much better than the film!

Anyway, for some time I have been wanting to explore further the use of scraped paint which I use as the background for my map quilts. Like this one for example, The Roodee:
I love that technique for backgrounds but I always do it the same way and with inks not paint. I wanted to see if I could make it look like wood or the steel doors. The whole thing is painted with normal acrylic paints and a textile medium. Mostly with a credit card and my fingers with the odd touching up detail with a brush. The No33 letters are stencilled with Luminere paint. The shop, you will see is actually No 33A ,but I didn't have a small A stencil and was feeling lazy so....!!  The quilt is not perfect but it gave me enormous confidence to know that this was a technique worth pushing further. and I have another Doorway to show you but  I am going to tease you and hold that back until my next post!

To get the look of the spray painted graffiti I used oil pastels. Not oil sticks. Oil pastels. Then I wondered why I had not read about anyone using those on quilts. After three days I realised it was probably because they do not dry well. The solution? The same non-yellowing fixative you use for pastels on paper worked a treat. Stinks to high heaven so I opened all the doors and windows turned on the extractor fan, put on a mask, didn't breathe and left the room to air for ages when I used it on the quilt rather than a test fabric! I have no idea what it does to the archival quality of quilts but thats not a concern to me right now with these pieces. Getting while oil pastel all over my hands while I quilted was a big concern!

The worn posters are Bengali newspapers. The woman in the shop was most reluctant to see something so 'useless' to me when I confessed I do not speak a word of Bengali. I did try to explain the art purpose but she was still very perplexed when I left the shop! I have to say though that I didn't know when I bought the newspapers that I would use them this way. Just proves that a stock of appealing 'one day' things is an important thing to have!

The women were extracted from an entirely different photo I took on Cheetham Hill Road in Manchester where the great Asian supermarkets are. Hmm, even writing that makes me want goo and pick ups some flat breads and lassis! The front one is turning her head to talk to the other one which is why you don't see a face. When doing the scarves ( which are chiffon) I folded the fabric so it has some dimensionality but on reflection the way I allowed the tine to go from top left diagonally across the head makes her look more like she is looking at her feet. You will see in due course I tried to improve on that. I don't think it shows well in photos but the fact the women are appliquéd on but not quilted does make them stand out from the background.

I have already been inspired to make another literal doorway ( soon I will show you - soon - this post will be too long with two stories in it!)  and I will probably use painted whole cloths a lot more now I have done this. But also, I see abstract possibilities. here are three shots I took of details of the door. Like with my obsessions with shacks I see a beauty in these photos of dilapidation and decay combed with the marks of the people who live close by. Plus the compositions are interesting.

 I love this last one particularly. Who put those feathers there I wonder? And what did they intend?

So, I am excited to see what you do with this theme and where we go together. It will I am sure be a doorway into new things - did you intend that double meaning when you picked the theme?


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Appreciating the Ordinary, Embracing the Wonky

Dear Helen,

As you know, I'm a sucker for a good online, go-at-your-own-pace workshop.  And recently, I jumped into another one, called "Draw your Awesome Life" taught by Joanne Sharpe.  I've taken classes from Joanne before, and I like her enthusiasm and her free-wheeling style.  She emphasizes being yourself and drawing or lettering in your very own style, versus trying to be perfect and realistic and all.

Even though I've been sketching and painting pretty regularly, this class beckoned to me for a bunch of reasons.  In art, I'm drawn to the idea of finding beauty in the ordinary.  So the idea of using the bits of every day life and seeing the "awesome" in them is right up my alley.  Also, there's a sense of gratitude in all  of this -- recognizing the wonderfulness of the simplest bits of every day living, and appreciating it and even celebrating it in art. This feels like an important reminder for me, especially in this phase where I'm feeling so, well, transitional.

Plus, the other goal was to just get myself to loosen up.  I feel like my sketches have gotten tighter and fussier (and more boring) and I need something to get away from that.  I think this fast and loose and fun approach is just the thing to shake me out of that.

So yesterday, I spent a bit of time -- and a very little bit, actually -- doing the "draw one leaf five ways" assignment.  Very freeing.

I have been reminded how much I like contour drawing -- how it really is loose and freeing.  Wonky.  Remember how I said I'm trying to "embrace the wonky" in my sketches?  I keep forgetting that.  Contour drawing makes me remember.

I don't know where this will lead.  I think the loosening up is what I need right now, the permission to draw fast lines and splash the paint around.  Will this transfer into fiber art?  Who knows.  But it feels right, right now. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Visiting, Painting, and Eating (edited version)

Good morning, Helen!
You will recognize this page in my sketchbook from your recent visit and our trip to SHED in Healdsburg. What a lovely visit that was -- thank you again for coming all of this way. You are an easy friend to entertain. We like so many of the same things that we do not have difficulty coming up with options to fill our time, do we?
In any event, I finished my page after you left and thought you'd like to see it. Will you add your sketch to this post?

It has taken me a while but finally here is my page. You seem to have yours at a better size and you now, its so long since I blogged I have almost forgotten how to do it, so excuse the modest picture! I too really enjoyed our time together and we certainly need to do it again. Not least so you can explain again how I can stop my watercolours looking so inspid!