Monday, 22 May 2017

Take a line for a walk

As a primary school teacher I frequently asked the children to 'take a line for a walk'.  This usually involved scribbling all over a page with a pencil and then colouring in the spaces.  Currently I am examining 'taking a line for a walk' in a sketchbook using India ink, brown acrylic ink and Koh-I-Nor Dye based Watercolours.

I don't know whether any of this will lead anywhere in terms of a finished piece but that doesn't matter.  I'm enjoying playing with line.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 19 May 2017


Last week I went to Stroud to visit the DIS/rupt textile exhibition and to do two workshops that were each run by a textile artist who had work in the exhibition.

The exhibition was spread over two sites - the Museum in the Park and the Lansdown Hall.  This meant that there was ample space around each exhibit and made for great viewing.  The exhibits were made from various media and were very thought provoking.   The work for the exhibition was provided by members of the Textile Study Group and details of the exhibition can be found here: DIS/rupt.

I drove down on Wednesday and spent the afternoon looking at the exhibitions and walking around Stroud.  There were other exhibitions to see around the town as part of the Select Festival.  There were some pictures of birds by Jilly Cobbe in a rather lovely cafe called Meme in George Street, where I had a chocolate explosion of Hot Chocolate and a chocolate brownie.  Yum!

The first workshop on Thursday was run by Ruth Issett called Disrupting Repetitive Pattern.  This was really well prepared and we achieved an amazing amount in the 2.5 hours we had available.

We did quite simple monoprinting with a limited palette of colours.  I chose turquoise and lemon and later turquoise and yellow.  At various points Ruth asked us to use black or white as a third colour.  We started on calico.  I ended up with this but I think I was a bit heavyhanded with the black.

We moved on to Cotton Organdie which I loved using.  You can disrupt everything you are doing because it folds so easily and holds the shape.

This is the start of the second piece of organdie.

I disrupted this by screwing up the organdie as tightly as I could, flattening it out and then printing on top of it.

Ruth gave us some black organdie

And then she gave us two pieces of her own dyed fabrics with a square of freezer paper on it.  I printed over the top and then removed the square.

I may have been a bit heavyhanded again with the white.

There was a short break between workshops where I went out for another look at the Lansdown exhibition and had a hot chocolate with a friend.  You can read about her view of the workshops on her blog.

The afternoon workshop, Text in Textiles was run by Julia Triston. This was another excellent workshop.  I didn't take photos whilst I was working!  We had to choose a word or phrase  and find ways to disrupt the word.  I chose 'exiles'.  My initial thought was to put the letters in pairs and have 'ex' larger than 'il' which in turn was larger than 'es'.  Julia suggested I might put blocks of colour and put the letters on top and disrupt the line of rectangles with some of the letters.  I built up a background of calico pieces and sewed them together with running stitch to infer pathways.  I used bondaweb to attach the blocks of colour and the letters.  I still have to finish stitching the 'e' at the top right (which currently looks like a 'c'.)

On Friday I did a little tour of Gloucestershire to view other of the Select exhibitions on the way home.  I went to Painswick to visit a felt exhibition at ACP.  The clothes were beautiful.

Then I called at the Malthouse Kitchen & Bar where there were enormous drawings of children dressed as superheroes called 'Future Giants'.

And then on to The Nursery at Miserden to view the sculptures.

If you're ever down that way Miserden is well worth a visit.  It's tucked away in the Cotswolds.  It's one of those villages where the 'big house' owns the village.

My final visit on the way home was to New Brewery Arts which had a few items for the Select Festival but mostly I went to see Emily who has a studio there where she make beautiful books.

I had a lovely time and my head is full of ideas from both the DISrupt exhibition and the two workshops.

And since the workshop I have continued to stitch and the piece now looks like this.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 15 May 2017


Last time I told you about the mentoring days with Christine Chester and at last I'm getting round to tell you about my new, possibly risky, venture.

I have been part of setting up a new textile group with Cath, Deb, Dia and Jan who I met on ExTex.

Cath wrote eloquently about who and why we are Traverse: "Traverse is a newly-formed group of five textile artists, based in the Midlands, who came together after studying Experimental Textiles for nine months with Kim Thittichai at Inkberrow Design Centre; we intend to start exhibiting our work next year.

The name ‘Traverse’ grew out of a sense of looking or moving sideways, to find different perspectives as we approach a theme for our work – we may not all travel in the same direction to get there, or use the same vehicle. Indeed, although our work is loosely described as mixed media, we each have our favourites, including working with paper, metal, hand-dyed fabric, felt, 3D and fashion, using heat, print, paint, and stitch. However, a large part of our ethos is to celebrate our diversity, share our various strengths and to grow together.

The title of our first exhibition is ‘Destinations’ and preliminary work so far is already revealing different perspectives on that theme - some based on maps, views of the Earth from Space and imaginary landscapes. The Latin origins of the word, destinare, ‘make firm, establish’, led to it meaning ‘being destined for a place’ and we hope that this, our first exhibition, will begin to establish our place in the world of textile art."

She has an amazing way with words.  I hope my work will match up to the dream.  The working title of Destinations covers maps, journeys, places and travel.  This is a very wide topic and as Cath said we are all finding different ways of looking at the theme.

Before I went to see Christine Chester I had done a mind map - or whatever they are called these days - of all the things that interest me to work on.

One of the sheets of marks that I produced produced some interesting sections.

On the left hand side there appeared to be hunched up silhouettes.  I don't usually put people into my art but since refugees are on my mind map I thought I would look at isolating this image.  I cleaned the image up and have had it made into 3 different sized Thermofax screens.

We had our first Traverse weekend together and I tried out some flour paste resist.  This technique produces random lines on the fabric that have a map like quality.

I have used the Thermofax screens on the fabric.

I printed on other fabrics as well so I am interested to see where this takes me.  I've also started making marks in a sketchbook with no end project in view.

I'll keep you up to date with how things are going next month.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Way Forward

Reading through my last post R.I.S.K. it seemed to me to be a bit of a random wander through my current thinking.  I hope you could make sense of it.  It was certainly helpful to me to write it all down.

I ended by saying that I spent 2 days being mentored by Christine Chester at her studio in Eastbourne and that I was part of a new venture.

Mentoring with Christine Chester

I met Christine when I attended a workshop she led at The Bramble Patch called Poetry of Decay. It was an excellently organised workshop which I discover I didn’t ever blog about. I did share the photos I had taken for inspiration.

Safe to say, I really enjoyed the work, learned lots about different techniques and the properties of various media and was totally impressed by Christine’s style of teaching. Her style really suited me and later when I saw that she offered mentoring I decided that I would sign up.

Having met Christine it was possibly not as much of a risk to ask her for help as it might have been but it’s still making myself and my work vulnerable – not something I’m good at.

Before the two days in Eastbourne Christine sent me a questionnaire with I had to return 2 weeks before our meeting. I am prone to leave things to the last minute and usually I would look at it a couple of days before the deadline but knowing I was going away (see all the Ohio, Road Trip, Florida and Washington posts!) I decided to start shortly after receiving the questionnaire in January. The questionnaire asked about the strengths and weaknesses of my current work, time constraints etc. Instead of working through it in order and in one go, I moved about the questionnaire and came back to it time and time again in order to have thinking time. It was such a great experience. I have never spent so much time thinking about the things Christine was asking.

In addition she asked for two Pinterest boards – one showing my own work and one showing work that I liked or inspired me.

Our first session together was spent looking at some of my work that I had taken with me and talking about my responses to the questionnaire and Christine’s thoughts on what I had written. This was a great session and I was torn between wanting to take notes and wanting to fully concentrating on what Christine was saying.

Christine left me on my own to process what she had said and I wrote up what I could remember. Fortunately when Christine sent me her version of what we had talked about the two documents were pretty much the same.  I also made a mind map of my thoughts from the tutorial.

The key issue was perception. My perception of the value of my work! My perception of what passion looks like – it doesn’t have to be extrovert when I am an introvert!  And process v theme.

One of the things we discussed was my feeling that I did too many workshops and the skills and techniques I learned didn’t translate into finished pieces. Christine wrote this in the tutorial notes: “One of the key shifts in perception is that process should be subordinate to your ideas – that does not mean that process is not important – far from it. But it does mean that you are making the idea the key feature, rather than the process. This should keep the communication of your idea clearer – either visually to an audience, or at least in your mind in light of having to write artists statements.” This is quite a shift in perception for me and I am still processing it.

We talked about developing a visual language of my own and Christine encouraged me to spend the rest of the day using various media and tools to explore this. I used India ink, walnut ink and screenprinting ink with a variety of tools including a twig, a kebab stick and a feather. I worked on large sheets of paper and worked on loosening up. I started with a triangle which is rigid and then tried expanding that and breaking up the lines. In my mind I was thinking about risk and breaking out and giving myself permission. I ended up with some really interesting images.

One of the images isolated from the marks above

I spent the morning of the second day still trying out different marks. Christine brought me a book to look at by Denise Lach: Calligraphy: A book of Contemporary Inspiraton  which I have since purchased.  I tried writing phrases with the different tools and media.

I started making marks whilst thinking about chains and broken chains – still following the thoughts of breaking out and breaking free. I tried drawing with my eyes shut, with my non-dominant hand, and used a candle so I couldn’t see what I’d drawn until I put a wash over the marks.

I also worked on fabrics.

I spent time working on my own in the studio and time working whilst Christine was doing some of her work. Working on my own meant I didn’t become dependent on Christine’s input so that I could continue at home. We didn’t have set times to talk but if I was flagging or stuck Christine was available to give advice or to ask questions.

It was an outstanding two days which I am still processing. I am trying to continue with the mark making. Not working for a finished piece or working on a particular technique is quite different for me so is quite a shift of perspective.

After I came home, Christine sent me a summary of what we had discussed and an action plan for the next 4-6 months including an optional extra of reading some books. Later in the year I can ask for a Skype session where we discuss the action plan and what I have achieved from it.

This post as become much longer than I imagined so I am going to tell you about my new venture next time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, 8 May 2017

R. I. S. K.

For some of you RISK is a board game!  I don't play that!  The dictionary defines risk as putting yourself in peril or in danger.  I don't do that!

I find myself fairly frequently talking to myself negatively.  Do you do that?  It isn't good for you.  It isn't good for me!  I think of myself as 'risk averse'.  I often used to think I was middle-aged and boring.  Now I often think of myself as older and boring.  But I'm not OLD - just in case you wonder why I put 'older'.  Basically boring equates with not taking risks.   I certainly wouldn't do this - although I was walking on the glacier at the time I took the photo.

Mark Zuckerberg said "The biggest risk is not taking any risk... In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks."

Recently I have been talking and thinking about changing my perception - mostly about my creativity but it applies to my life as well.  In 2014 I wrote a blog post about changing my perception: From under the sideboard.

I often don't learn things the first time!  And I have to go back to it again.  Years ago a speaker was talking about dealing with things and that it's like walking up a spiral staircase so that you keep meeting the same thing but from a higher viewpoint.  And life goes on - somewhat daily - and we need - I need - to keep revisiting things but from a different viewpoint.

So lately I've been thinking about what it means to take a risk.  I looked up the synonyms of risk and here are some of them:  opportunity, possibility, prospect, uncertainty, openness, speculation, venture.  Do I embrace any of these?  Have I embraced any of these?

Just as it's good to count your blessings, it's good to look back and see what you've done.  So where have I had courage and embraced opportunities and uncertainty.

In 1967 I took myself to London to my college interview.  I had never been to London and had no idea how the Underground worked!  Back then parents didn't take you to see the college.  And I got in to the college and spent 3 years there negotiating the public transport system!

In 1971 I bought a maisonette at a time when women didn't really buy property.  My Dad had to be the guarantor for my mortgage - that's how it was back then.  Women couldn't take out loans and mortgages without a male guarantor!

In 1972 I gave up a teaching post without another job to go to.  I got the next job - teaching! - two days before term started.

I got married.  And I got divorced!  I yet again gave up teaching without knowing what I would do next.  Actually I went back to teaching!

I bought a house.  This time without needing my Dad's signature.

I met Roger.  I sold my house.  I moved in with Roger.   Someone suggested I keep all the money from my house in the bank so I had a backup for if Roger & I didn't work out.  I thought about that and then went out and spent it all.  I decided that I had to make it work this time.  I didn't think it would be good to be thinking about it not working out.
May 14th 1983

And 30+ years later it's still working out!

We had a baby.  At the time having a baby aged 37 was a risk.  So the medical profession were telling me anyway.

You might be thinking this is all old history.  Have you done anything risky at all since 1986?

I gave up teaching.

I took up being creative again.

I started this blog and occasionally write personal stuff like today's post and this one on my choice of One Little Word for 2014.

I set up art challenge blogs and creative bible studies not knowing whether anyone would join in.

Each year for 5 years I have travelled on my own to the United States.  Once I invited myself to stay with someone I only knew via Facebook!

I helped set up a creative space at church without really knowing whether anyone would use it.

Most recently I travelled to Washington DC on my own and spent time sight-seeing.

And a couple of weeks ago I spent 2 days being mentored by Christine Chester at her studio which I will tell you about in the next post - along with another venture I'm part of.

In looking for quotes about risk I came across this one from e e cummings: "Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."

Let's take a closer look at our lives - maybe the curiosity, wonder and spontaneous delight can be found in the every day.  Perhaps we should stop looking at it as the 'daily grind' and see it as the daily opportunity.

What risks have you taken recently?

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Dyary time

This year Dyan Reaveley introduce a new line of products - The Creative Dyary Collection.  I pre-ordered some of the products and fortunately they arrived by the end of February so that I could start my Dyary on March 1st.

I started by checking out Dyan's blog and looking at what I had done with Documented Life Planner.  Fortunately manufacturers have now starting producing narrow washi tape.  In 2014 I had to slice the standard tape into 3 to use as dividing lines. 

The dyary comes with some of Dyan's artwork on the right hand page and I thought that this would make it easier to journal with.  But in fact I have found it just as difficult as having a blank page.

Then I got busy and didn't have time to keep up with the pages.  However it was still on my mind as whilst I was in the States I bought more washi tape and some pads of stickers.

I spent a couple of days last week catching up with all the pages.


 Currently I'm leaving the bird page as a black and white drawing but I may come back to colour it in.

I am pleased with my left hand pages.  It's a great record of what I've been up to and possibly makes my life look rather more exciting than it really is!  I don't love the right hand pages but now that I'm up to date I want to investigate how I can make the pages more my own.

Have a look at Dyan's new blog post.

Thanks for stopping by.