And not forgetting - Colour Your Palette
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Not everybody loves breakdown printing or wants to use screen printing to create their cloth. And so I have developed a second five day retreat, Colour Your Palette, that is focused on the addition of colour through dyeing, resist dyeing and the removal of colour using different discharge processes. Although most of the fabrics I have used in my work in recent years are breakdown printed I do include complimentary fabrics that have gone through dyeing and discharge processes. For me it is important to have a broad range of techniques at my finger tips so that I can select the technique that will give me the affect that I am looking for. 

The aim of this five day course is to create a palette of coordinated plain and patterned fabrics based on your own source of inspiration.  Students will be encouraged to create beautiful complex cloth by putting pieces through multiple processes. Where appropriate we may use other surface design techniques such as thermofax printing to add detail to our cloth.

And, because I love colour, this course will be driven by colour - understanding how to mix simple and complex colours from primaries and working with a restricted set of colours or a colour family to create pieces of fabric that work together. We will exploit the transparency of Procion dyes by blending colour directly on the cloth as we put fabric through multiple processes. 

There are other ways to add colour to cloth that give lovely effects. We will look at two alternatives during the five days - indigo dyeing and rust-like dyeing using Ferrous Sulphate - and how they can be combined with Procion dyeing. It will be a full-on, fun packed week. The studio will be a riot of colour and I can't wait!

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Breakdown Your Palette
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My new five day retreat Breakdown Your Palette is the course that I have been so wanting to teach! Those who read my blog or follow me on Facebook and Instagram will know that I love, love, love breakdown printing. It has formed the basis of my art for the last three or four years and will continue to do so. I love the serendipity of the printing process - I get marks that I could not get through any other method. I love the fact that every print I make is different. And I love the fact that, having spent 100's of hours making and printing screens, I have learnt new ways of creating breakdown screens; I have learnt to manipulate colour value and scale to influence the results I get and I have learnt to adjust my process to print whatever the weather conditions. Have a look at my earlier blog post here if you don't know what breakdown printing is. It is a simple process that can create complex, beautiful whole cloth that can used for clothing or as a background to stitch or it can be used to create a palette of cloth that can be cut and pieced. 

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When I decided to start teaching I was cautious and only developed workshops for weekends, leaving week days for a 'proper' job. Which is a problem for teaching breakdown printing as the process involves letting your screens dry. Not an issue on a sunny day when screens will dry in a few hours outdoors. But very limiting on days when it isn't sunny. However having made the BIG decision to become a full time artist and teacher I have been able to develop a 5 day Breakdown Printing extravaganza! 

I have combined a deep dive into breakdown with my second love - colour. Understanding colour and using colour selectively is the key to creating a set of printed fabrics that work together. The course also covers using discharge paste to breakdown print which is such a useful process - it can be used to create complex layers of colour and texture and is a great tool for turning ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. And yes, I do still produce ugly ducklings occasionally!

I started promoting the course at Festival of Quilts and had an amazing response. And I got to talk about breakdown for hours!! The two courses I have scheduled are now live and can be booked via my website along with my other workshops. There is only 1 place left on the 20th to 24th May 2019 course but I have more spaces on the 17th to 21st June course. I can't wait to teach this one - it is going to be so much fun.!

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What a blast! Thank you!
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Festival of Quilts was amazing! A big thank you to everybody that came to visit my stand, it was wonderful to put so many faces to names and to catch up with so many friends. Hello to new subscribers to this blog and new friends on Facebook. Festival really is one big community and I am overwhelmed by all the support I've received for my new life as a full time artist and teacher.

A special thank you to those of you who booked courses and brought fabric - I really didn't know what to expect at the show and was very nervous about making the investment but you have helped me believe that I am doing the right thing.

And to Joe, Ruth and Gwyneth, my gang of helpers. I am a lucky lady. 

This is only a short post as I am just a little bit tired. I will post more about my two new 5 day retreats Breakdown Your Palette and Colour Your Palette, which I launched at Festival and which are now on my website, in the next few days but you might want to look now as there is only one place left on the Breakdown retreat in May! And I will post about my plans for the next 12 months - I am going to be busy, busy, busy!

Watch out Birmingham!
 New work: Process Colour #1

New work: Process Colour #1

With one day to spare I am all ready for Festival of Quilts. How do I know? Because I have checked everything off my Festival of Quilts 2018 checklist. I love a good checklist! Have I forgotten anything ....

  • FoQ paperwork / car pass / Hi-Vis / Exhibitor Passes - check
  • Float / Phone / Tablet / Chargers / card reader / power bank - check
  • Sack truck - check
  • Two table tops (with pre-drilled holes for legs) - check
  • Eight legs (in their handmade carrying bags) - check
  • Makita drill / small screws / screw driver / spirit level - check
  • Two table cloths - check
  • One stool (but I will be too busy to use it!) - check
  • Small steps (can't reach top of stand) - check
  • Quilts for stand (in their handmade bag) - check
  • Postcards / stands - check
  • Leaflets / stands - check
  • Fabric for sale (lots) - check
  • Display boxes - check
  • Velcro dots - check
  • Panel pins - check
  • Small hammer - check
  • Duck tape and cable ties (thanks for the tip Ruth) - check
  • Double sided tape - check
  • Invisible tape - check
  • Scissors - check
  • Wet wipes - check
  • Hand fan (hot flushes!) - check
  • Notebook - check
  • Pens / pencils - check
  • Twine - check
  • Fabric care slips - check
  • Business cards - check
  • Labels for quilts - check
  • Price labels for fabric - check
  • A4 workshop 'adverts' for stand (love laminating!) - check
  • 100 snazzy paper bags / labels - check
  • Lint roller (for the quilts) - check
  • Tape measure - check
  • Fine pins - check
  • Calculator - check
  • Newsletter sign up sheet - check
  • Workshop sign up forms - check
  • Paypal sign (yes I take PayPal and cards) - check
  • Price / availability list for workshops - check
  • Joe (oldest son, my gofer, and, he says, ace salesperson) - he is around here somewhere!
  • Clothes to wear (by far the hardest decisions!) - check

If you are at Festival please come see me on stand H35 in the main hall! It will be lovely to put faces to names x

And my spare day .... unless it is pouring down I'm taking my grandson to the beach and eating ice cream. 

 

Living the dream!
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This time next week Festival of Quilts will be in full swing and the halls at the NEC, Birmingham will be buzzing with 1000's of quilters, embroiderers and textile enthusiasts. There will even be a handful of long suffering husbands and partners ... And I will, hopefully, have lots of visitors to my stand H35. My life plan didn't have me doing this until I was in my early 60's but life is never a straight line and so here I am and I couldn't be happier. I will turn 55 next Thursday and have already given myself the best present ever by deciding to become a full time artist and teacher. 

Deciding to take a stand at Festival at such short notice has meant that I've been working long, long hours in the studio. Being me I marked out my stand full size, decided what size tables would work and spent a really lovely few hours figuring out how to display my hand dyed fabrics. I folded fabric, I printed labels, I wrote and printed wash care slips, I ordered black fabric to use as table cloths, I brought some paper bags, I created a blog subscription sign up sheet and, one that I hope gets used lots, I made a workshop sign up sheet. 

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I marked out the three walls of my stand on my design wall and went through my older quilts to see what might fit and look good. Most of my recent work is just too big but I did have a small Ruins piece that never got exhibited so, after fusing on 'urban studio north', this has become the centre piece of my display. I didn't have the right mix in my existing pieces so have had to make two quilts - Off The Grid which is a rather nice example of breakdown printing and Pass The Tequila which showcases a tray dyed piece of fabric. I've also made a funky little 'workshop' quilt. It has been a long time since I worked on anything that wasn't part of a series or destined for an exhibition and really enjoyed making them. It's been fun.

I've also decided to develop a couple of 5 day retreats for 2019. The first one will be called 'Breakdown Your Palette' and will focus on breakdown printing and the benefits of using a limited selection of colours to create a cohesive collection of fabrics that can be used as whole cloth, pieced or used as yardage for clothing. The second will be called 'Colour Your Palette' and will focus on the addition and removal of colour through various dyeing and discharging methods. Again the emphasis will be on creating fabrics that work together. Both will be launched at Festival. 

Oh yes and I also heard last week that I will have a solo gallery at Festival 2019! Super excited! Going to be super busy! The Art gods have been shining on me - I am living my dream!

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Ta da - presenting Urban Studio North
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Last Monday was an important day. It was the day when everything that needed to find a home in the studio had a home, everything that needed removing was removed, everything that needed a label had a label and everything that needed cleaning had been cleaned. Yes, even the windows! It was the day that my beautiful studio was ready for it's first students! 

It will probably never look like this again; all those virgin drop cloths will soon be covered in random colourful marks for a start. But for now let me walk you through it. The studio is 8.5 metres wide by 5.5 metres deep. One long wall faces south and contains two bay windows and a set of french doors - so lots and lots of natural light which is supplemented by six large LED ceiling panels. The long back wall is mostly a design wall, useful for putting up teaching aids and looking at students work. One side wall is the 'wet' area with two sinks, two tea urns for hot water, a fridge, cupboards and counter top. I still need to install a washing machine. The other side wall is the 'dry' area. This is where my PC and laser printer sit. It is where I store all my finished work and work in progress behind a white curtain that can also double as a design wall. And the very important bit - it has the tea and coffee area! In between there is my large print bench with cupboards and shelves underneath. And six student 'work stations, each with height adjustable 180 x 80cm bench, stool and storage trolley. 

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I want to provide all the equipment and media needed for each of the workshops. Wherever possible the 'requirements' lists will be limited to fabric, the means to take work home, apron and notebook. Most of my workshops are suitable for beginners who might not want to buy a lot of stuff up front - although I'm going to work really hard at getting them / you all thoroughly hooked on dyeing and printing!

Have a look at my workshops at www.leahhiggins.com/workshops and I hope to welcome some of you soon in the Urban Studio North.

Festival of Quilts!
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When I decide to do something I really go for it, I give it my all and I aim to succeed. Determined, ambitious, tenacious - that's me. So I have taken a stand at this summers Festival of Quilts in order to promote Urban Studio North and my workshops to as wide an audience as possible. I will be on stand H35 which is in one of the alleys near the Nancy Crow exhibition. Please, please, please come find me if you are at the show!

My stand is only small (2 metres x 2 metres) but I want it to showcase as many aspects of surface design as possible. After all that is what I teach. As well as showing a couple of my favourite small quilts I will be showing a couple of new pieces. These are 'process' driven - they do not have a specific inspiration but they each show how printed and dyed fabrics can be used. The first one is almost finished. I'm calling it 'Off the Grid', detail below. The cloth went through 3 wet processes - I breakdown printed the first layer, then scraped through colour in the second layer and finally breakdown printed using formosol discharge paste. I will be supporting and encouraging students on my Introduction to Surface Design courses to take their cloth through multiple processes - you get such wonderful, totally unique, depth of colour and texture.

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I'm rather nervous about this new venture - it cost quite a bit of money and what if nobody signs up for a workshop! or even worse, what if nobody even stops to talk to me!! But I am also absolutely fizzing with excitement. I love talking about my work and my processes, and I especially love talking about colour. I am looking forward to seeing friends and making new friends. So if you are at Festival (9th to 12th August at the NEC, Birmingham), please stop by!

So nearly there

I am hot, I am sweaty and I am surrounded by chaos. But actually the studio is just a whisper (and a few hours work) away from being ready to welcome my first students. My Urban Studio North now contains 6 lovely, height adjustable print benches, each with their own stack of washed drop clothes. Each 'workstation' has a stool (albeit 4 still need putting together) and a wheeled trolley that contains / will contain cat litter trays, lots of pots with lids, tile grouters (the sensible persons cheap screen squeegee), lots of spoons, masking tape, pins and scissors. And lots of space for students to put their stuff. Each workstation will also have buckets. Partly I want to reduce the amount of time students spend fetching stuff the stuff that they are most likely to use but also because I don't have the cupboards or shelves to store everything I will need to teach surface design.

I still have a list of things to buy but all the 'big' stuff is now in the studio. Dyes, screen printing inks, fabric, screens are all in place. Over the next week I want to turn chaos into a calm, tidy oasis of potential creativity. But to get there I need to hang lots of my art, scour and varnish the new screens, clear out all the stuff that shouldn't be in the studio and clean. Boy, do I need to clean!

In amongst the chaos I have been developing a mini-workshop to give at the ICHF shows and stitching pieces ready for my stand that show various aspects of surface design. I have even found a few hours to try out some new breakdown printed ideas. This lovely hot spell is perfect breakdown weather with my screens drying in a few hours. Just need to find the time, and clear bench space to print that latest set ....

 

 

Good intentions
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I took a break this week from preparing my studio (and me) to teach and started working on my next piece for my international fibre group Cloth in Common. We have 11 members and each need to make a new piece every 2 months - so that is a 11 quilt, 22 month commitment. I wasn't 100% convinced that it was the right thing for me but decided to go for it. I decided that I would use the challenge to use colours, techniques, materials and ideas that were radically different from my current work. But with limits - I declared that I wouldn't do cute, wouldn't do sequins and definitely wouldn't be doing animals / flowers / nature type stuff!

Our 'theme' for these 22 months is 'unusual prompts' and boy, have I struggled with some of them. Hmmm .... so it turns out that I have done cute. Cherry Cupcake Baby is cute. With a punch! And I've done a stylised tree in Hope Springs. And I've used lots of breakdown printed fabric. So much for my good intentions!

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Our latest prompt is 'road'. I draw a complete blank when I read this. Tumble weed rolling around an empty head. But then a quote popped into my head - 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. I'm not sure making a cute quilt will send me to hell but, when I started thinking about it, I fill my life with good intentions most of which I fail to achieve. I will get up when the alarms goes off tomorrow morning - oops I seem to have accidentally hit the snooze button. Five times. I will eat a healthy breakfast - oops that bread is going to go off if I don't eat it. Toasted with butter and jam. Right through to I will go to bed earlier ....

So for this quilt I am busy writing out all those good intentions on strips of cloth. And I will finish the quilt in plenty of time .......