Thursday, 29 December 2011

Back to work

Much as I love Christmas it does seem to go on a bit doesn't it? I love to see all the family and I really enjoy feeding anyone who drops by but I'm always happiest when the mince pies and Christmas cake disappear and life returns to normal. The coffee table is still groaning with irresistible chocolates I'm sorry to confess but today we have a temporary lull in the festivities and I can escape the kitchen for a bit. I am back in my workroom reorganising everything with a vengeance. The promise of a New Year always has a rejuvenating effect on me and I am in the mood to finish any projects that have been lurking somewhere in a heap!!

Does anyone remember seeing the beginnings of this little appliqued Tulip panel? I made it with the leftovers from a DMTV project. After adding fly stitch embroidery to the vase I've worked a combination of hand quilting, using a Madeira cotton thread, with free motion machine quilting using Madeira rayon machine embroidery thread. The fly stitch, seed stitch and french knots were worked with Madeira Lana - one of my absolute favourites!

I can't imagine life without my Husqvarna sewing machines but I also enjoy having some hand stitching in the evenings when I am half watching TV. The hand stitch adds a different texture to the surface don't you think? Last night the BBC's Great Expectations held my full attention but I was able to add a colourful binding to connect the colours of the applique to the edge of the quilt and this morning I chose a wooden mini frame as a perfect way to display a little quilt like this. We have the frames hand made here in the heart of the country and you may have seen them before in our online store but you won't have seen one quite like this! I had thought I'd use one with a natural looking wax finish but being the control freak that I am decided get a plain one and paint it myself. I used Jacquard Lumiere in violet halo gold and I think it coordinates pretty well with the hand dyed fabrics of the flowers and the binding.

Out in my garden studio I keep all my hand dyed fabrics in large plastic crates but as I rummage through to try and find specific colours they get really messy,  That's what I'm aiming to tackle this afternoon. What fun! Imagine me with all the contents of the crates tipped out on the floor - I shall no doubt be sidetracked by all sorts of stuff I had forgotten I had - this may well take a while! Of course there can be no photographic evidence of this chaos - you'd be far too shocked!

Happy New Year to everyone who visits my blog, I do appreciate it. I hope you're all feeling positive about 2012 being your creative best!
Talk to you next year! Linda

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas one and all!

Our very good friends at Madeira sent us a parcel this week. It's been a busy few weeks and Laura and I were feeling in need of a treat. Being our usual impatient selves we couldn't wait to see what was inside. It didn't look like the usual box of lovely sewing threads so, intrigued, the ribbons and gift wrap had to come off immediately! Our grasp of German is pathetically inadequate but we managed to understand the packaging enough to know it was edible -  needless to say, this lovely Kirsch cake didn't last long! Thank you Madeira - it was delicious!

We have really appreciated all the goodwill messages and cards we've been sent from friends, students and DMTV subscribers - thank you one and all. We couldn't do what we do without you!

Hope your Christmas is peaceful and that you'll be back refreshed and reinvigorated in 2012 for a wonderfully creative New Year.

All the best for now - Linda

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mother's on her soapbox again!

Today is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. I may not aspire to be a modern day Dickens but I do have a Christmas tale to tell. When I was a little girl in the early fifties we didn’t have much money for fancy toys. We weren’t exactly the Cratchit family but there weren’t many luxuries. Instead we made things! We could have hours of pleasure with a pair of scissors and an old shopping catalogue, cutting out all the pretty clothes. Maybe my love of collage was born all those years ago? Sometimes when we needed entertaining my ever resourceful mother would cook a paste of flour and water on the stove to make glue and we would tear up old newspapers for papier mache. We’d paste the little squares of paper over a balloon to make a mask. Maybe distance lends enchantment but I remember those masks as being magical. Much better than anything you could buy from a shop. When the papier mache was dry we burst the balloon to release the mask, cut out holes for eyes and mouth and painted it with poster paint. Funny thing is I used much the same technique many years later when I did a City & Guilds’ course in Papercraft. Some things once learnt are never forgotten. This is one of the plates I made with a paper pulp technique.  

I graduated from poster paint to gorgeous acrylic inks and used them with abandon! 

When paint wants to run I just let it!
I really believe there is no greater satisfaction than to produce something beautiful with your own hands. All the better if that something is conjured from almost nothing! It’s the best therapy in the world.

This huge paper bowl is difficult to photograph - it was moulded over a giant lampshade.

And when there isn't enough pulp left to make a bowl you can use the last bits on scallop shells!

I realise I sound like one of those doddery old curmudgeons who witter on about the good old days and I don’t mean to. I am as enamoured of the high tech world we all live in as anyone else but the moral to this tale I suppose is that if we don’t continue to be creative with our hands and if we don’t share that magic, where will the next generation of artists come from? I am thankful to my mother for passing on her 'can do' attitude and her remarkable talents.
Lecture over - the soapbox is back in its corner and I'm off to make something lovely!

Thanks for reading this - Linda

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Must be nearly time

Christmas seems to have crept up on me again this year. I have been in denial but the time has come to give in and get into the right spirit.

I spent part of this afternoon decorating the tree. My family will laugh at this but every year I start out with good intentions to keep it tasteful. I will only hang colour coordinating baubles! Then of course I give in and every hand made ornament we've had in the family since the year dot gets squashed on too. Some of these we made when the children were tiny but they still come out year after year.

Once I'm in 'hostess with the mostess' mode there's no stopping me - here's the first batch of sesame bread rolls.

They looked so good we had to sample a few and then of course I had to make more. This time with poppy seeds on top. The freezer is full - we should be OK for Boxing Day turkey, stuffing and pickle sandwiches now!

Just in case you think I'm in already holiday mode and I've forgotten where my studio is, here's a couple of ideas we are working on as designs for the new printer. That's the beauty of having spent more than a year writing our latest Creative Sketchbook course - we have lots of lovely pages just waiting to be developed.

Who could resist a fat quarter of this? It's a collage with print and watercolour wash.

Here's a rather decorative pear print with pencil drawn detail. I know I shouldn't say it but they are gorgeous aren't they? They are both Laura's work so I'm allowed to praise them!

Hope your Christmas plans are going well and you aren't getting stressed. Talk again soon - Linda

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Better pictures

I don't usually post so often but I was worried yesterday's photos were blurry because I took them indoors at night. Hopefully these might be a bit better and will show you what Laura's busying herself with this week.

The Poppy Seedheads on the left are printed on cotton and the ones on the right are on silk chiffon.

Remember the Iris I appliqued for DMTV recently? Here's the quilt again on the right and a small detail of it much enlarged and printed on silk chiffon laid out on the left. It may only be a try out but it's so gorgeous I think I'll wear it as a scarf!

Talk again soon, Linda

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Such excitement!

I might have mentioned before (OK probably mentioned it more than once - we are excited!) that Laura is starting a new printing venture. Well the wide format printer arrived yesterday and it is a monster! After 2 intensive days of training I don't suppose we can say she and Jamie are experts yet but they're getting there! This afternoon I went to the new printroom and we tried a few of my images onto fabric.

You might recognise this Rook - he's an acrylic painting I did on canvas printed out more than life size onto a cotton fabric. The detail is astonishing! I took the pictures when I got home and it's late afternoon in December so the light isn't great.

The painted feathers from the sketchbook might work well as a coordinating fabric in a quilted panel don't you think? This is the printed fabric by the way, not the book!

And of course you can cut and paste an image to make a backing fabric too. Actually I couldn't bear to hide this on the back - it's too gorgeous!

These are a couple of pages from the sketchbook I made last year for the Sketchbook Project. The book now resides in America so it's good to have a permanent reminder on cloth. I plan to quilt these and maybe work into them again to accent details with paint.

Look how the fabric print is true to every fluid mark in the watercolour paint. That's impossible to achieve with paint direct to fabric but easy if you print from a painted paper image.

I hope Laura will turn up for work tomorrow but I suspect it will be quite a wrench to leave her new toy!

Thanks for reading this. I'll be in touch with the latest developments as they happen! Linda

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Seeking inspiration

I'm trying to get my head around our Oriental inspiration for one of next year's exhibitions. Having a theme is supposed to make things easier but sometimes when it is a subject you would probably never have chosen yourself it takes a while to get to grips with it. You have to start somewhere of course so today I thought I'd see what I have around the house to discover if I had anything vaguely oriental that might have design potential.

These fortune cookie wrappers might fit the bill even if I have no idea what they say! They've been lurking in my stash of interesting papers for far too long - it's time they earned their keep.

The colours are really gaudy so I've laminated a few of the wrappers between very thin layers of paper pulp. The one above is still wet so don't be mislead by the colour . The sheet is so fine you can still see the blue J Cloth through the pulp. It will dry paler and I'm hoping when it's dry it will be delicate and subtle because I'll probably want to stitch it and I can't bear sewing through thick paper! I'm thinking I might wax some of these when they're dry too - that will make them translucent and allow the gleam of the gold to show a bit more.

This little Chinese fellow has been with me for a long time. I used to burn incense sticks in that pot when I was younger. Looking at him now I think I may not have dusted him as often as I might have.

This figure was given to me by my mother many years ago.

I wonder what the characters on his costume mean? They're very ornamental though aren't they? Might have to carve another print block!

I'll let you know how the paper lamination turns out soon. In the meantime if you want to see more of the oriental inspiration I found please take a look at SiX and Friends blog. I'll post there later today.

Talk to you soon - Linda