Better get a wriggle on!
6 dec 18 2.jpg

I have my two ‘day a month’ groups in the studio this weekend and it is a bit of a tip. Since getting home from Harrogate I’ve been busy breakdown printing different samples, soda soaking fabric (and drying it in the studio), ordering and sorting out Christmas presents (bah humbug), doing paperwork and generally making use of every bench. Around all of that I have been doing a bit of mark making and have done a bit more decorating in the bog shed. I may even have got some sleep!

Before my lovely students arrive for their Introduction to Surface Design session on screen printing I need to:

  • Soda soak a few more pieces of fabric then clean up the mess this leaves on the floor. The weather has been very uncooperative this week!

  • Varnish another 5 screens - meant to do this months ago when I could have left the studio doors open to get rid of the smell (apologies students!)

  • Rinse, wash and iron all the breakdown samples and put a few of them up on my design wall. Hide the ones that are perfect illustrations of how NOT to breakdown print.

  • Load the rest of the design wall with quilts and samples that show various aspects of screen printing.

  • Make some more thermofax screens based on mark making for my students to use as background texture this weekend.

  • Decide on the colours I’ll use in my demonstrations this weekend and test drive the new thermofax screens.

  • Top up the print paste and thickened dyes.

  • Double check that all my screens are really clean - a speck of leftover dye goes surprisingly far.

  • Move Harrogate / show boxes out of the studio into the storage part of the bog shed.

  • Clean the bog shed.

  • Open the Amazon boxes, wrap presents and find somewhere in the studio to hide them away from my grandson.

  • Clean the studio. A bit.

  • Make it look a bit Christmassy (but not too much, bah humbug).

  • Make sure there is a good supply of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits (must hide some of the dark chocolate gingers for the Sunday class). Thought about making mince pies. Decided to do more breakdown printing instead.

  • Get some sleep….

My next Introduction to Surface Design courses will start in February. If you’re interested have a look here. My studio might be a tip today but by Saturday it will be an oasis of calm and creativity. But only if I get a wriggle on …

6 dec 18 3.jpg
Sampling for others

Whatever I have done in life I have always tried to do well; to be the best that I can possibly be. Now I recognise that there are lots of things that I’m never going to be any good at (foreign languages, clean manicured hands, nurturing plants ….) but that’s OK because they are not important to me. However teaching in my studio is important to me so I am striving to be the best that I can be.

I have worked hard to organise and equip my studio so that my students have lots of space to work and so that they don’t have to bring masses of stuff with them. I have had great fun making colour wheels to help and guide my students. And I’ve worked through my lesson plans to make sure I have lots of relevant (and hopefully inspiring) samples. But I realised whilst I was at the Knitting and Stitching Show last weekend that I don’t have enough breakdown printing samples. Don’t get me wrong, I have metres and metres of fabric printed ready for the art I need to make for my solo gallery at next years Festival of Quilts but those fabrics are in ‘my’ colours and have been made using breakdown techniques that fit in with my personal inspirations.

Not everybody wants to see rust and black fabric inspired by the decline in the cotton and mining industries. Strange but true. So this week I have been playing with other types of breakdown printing and with a slightly broader colour palette. I can’t quite bring myself to do pink flower inspired things or green landscape inspired things but I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time releasing my inner Jackson Pollock and squirting dye about. I may even let all my inhibitions go and print some screens at wonky angles. Blimey!

A quick thank you!
20 May 2018 2.jpg

A very quick thank you to everyone who came to see me at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate. And a quick hello to those of you who signed up to receive this blog by email!

My head is a tangle of new ideas inspired by the conversations I’ve had at the show and the responses to my stand. This is all still new to me and I have so much to learn. And so much that I want to do in the coming weeks and months. Watch this space but needless to say that it involves breakdown printing. It was also lovely to meet Alice Fox and Janet Gilbert who were demonstrating in the Art in Action space and to walk around the different galleries.

Exhausting but fun! And now I need to make up a batch of print paste ….


A matter of convenience
DSC_0608.jpg

Using the magic that is scheduled posts I thought I would share the story of the bog shed with you whilst I am busy peddling my wares at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. Yes I am talking toilets. Or bogs as us Brits sometimes call them. Specifically I am talking about a toilet in a shed. A bog shed.

(Bogshed were a very noisy punk band, much loved by my husband, much less loved by me).

When we built my studio a few years ago it was just for me so we didn’t bother plumbing in a bathroom. Instead I learnt to make art in two hour sessions. That being the cycle time to make coffee, drink coffee and for my middle aged bladder to want rid of coffee. It was very tempting to pee in a bucket rather than run the 10 metres or so to the house when it was cold and raining but the system worked.

Until I decided to teach in my studio. We quickly dismissed the idea of using a toilet in the house - we have 2.5 bathrooms but none on the ground floor; husband is rarely ‘human’ before midday and could scare the uninitiated; grandson litters the house with lego and other death traps; and I would have to clean my house loads. (The last reason was the real decider). Option 2 was to built a bathroom in the corner of the studio. But that would have meant sacrificing part of my giant print bench and part of the design wall. Nope. So we settled on option 3 - an outside toilet. Which is kind of funny because our Victorian house actually had an outside toilet when we brought it but we took it down so that we could add another window in the kitchen.

We needed to keep cost down so my father-in-law, Bernard, and son, Joe, took on the project. We lovingly(!) refer to them as ‘bodger and badger’ which will probably only mean anything to those of you in the UK and of a certain age. (Barry Chuckle RIP).

In the meantime my lovely students had to use a portaloo. A very nice one that was serviced and cleaned every week by a lovely man but did start to feel a bit drafty as we moved into autumn. Thank you to the weather gods for giving us mild, dry teaching days!

DSC_0421.jpg
DSC_0419.jpg

On paper we only needed a very small shed but then I thought about the added storage potential if we went a bit bigger. And so a 6ft x 8ft shed was ordered and five weeks later it was delivered and installed. Then the fun began. I kept the studio door firmly closed and tried to ignore the crashing and swearing. I did consider leaving the country but thought that might appear a little ungrateful.

First there was insulation. Floor, walls, ceiling, even the door got insulated - snow came early as the garden filled up with polystyrene balls. Then there was flooring, plasterboard, wiring and long consultations about where the toilet and hand basin should go.

Daily trips to B&Q brought more and more lengths of pipe, plastic brackets and bends along with enough electrical cable to surely rewire the whole street but eventually the shed was plumbed and powered up. It was tested by the grandson who, like all 9 year olds, couldn’t aim for toffee. He was officially banned from the bog shed.

A small dividing wall and internal door were added to give a better sense of privacy. Yes, the door is on upside down - there was a reason for this I’m sure. And then it was time for me to start painting and tiling (no way was I letting bodger or badger loose with a paint brush). Some nice soap and towels. Just in time for my day a month students to use a couple of weeks ago. The bog shed is officially open (except to Riley who is still banned).

All ready to go!
19 November 2018 1.jpg

Phew, with one day to spare I am already for the Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate. The show is open Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th November and I’m going to be on stand TG626. Please stop by and say hello!

There are lots of things to do to get ready for the show. I am there to promote my workshops so I’ve spent lots of time in front of the computer getting new courses ready and online. I put the last two up this morning. Print Your Palette (21st to 25th October 2019) is a 5 day deep dive into screen printing that is suitable for beginners but also a great opportunity of those who have done some screen printing in the past but want support to refine their knowledge and to learn how to put fabric through multiple layers of printing.

The other course is a response to all those who need a little encouragement to actually use their printed and dyed fabric. Yes it is lovely to get our fabrics out of the cupboard to stroke them every so often but it is even better to see them hanging on a wall or laid over a bed! The workshop is called Print, Stitch, Go! (25th to 29th November 2010) and in it students will spend the first half of the week printing and dyeing a small set of fabrics which they will then use to design and sew a simple wall hanging or quilt. Suitable for people who have never printed or dyed before the workshop is designed as a fun, gentle 5 days of time away from the world.

And in between all that computer work I have been dyeing fabric to sell at the show. This is an important part of the preparation as it, hopefully, provides a good contribution towards the cost of doing the show. And it’s so much fun! I’ve aimed for a good selection of colours, lots of ice dyed pieces and layer dyed pieces, and have enjoyed bundling together sets of fat quarters. Looking at the boxes of fabric there does seem to be quite a lot of teals and blues but also some really nice golden rusty brown pieces. Which happen to be my favourite colours - strange that!

Hope to see lots of you there!

IMG_1918.jpg
New workshops with Alice Fox and Christine Chester
 Alice Fox dyed silk with hand stitch

Alice Fox dyed silk with hand stitch

I am delighted to share the news that Alice Fox and Christine Chester will be teaching in the Urban Studio North in 2020. Yes that seems a long way off but both of these excellent tutors get booked up early!

Alice will be teaching her three day Rust Marks workshop (27th to 29th March 2020) in which she shares her experimental approach for transferring marks from rusty metals onto fabric and paper. Alice has a passion for the natural world and for using found objects and materials in her work. I am fascinated to see how she, and the students, work in an urban environment. You can see her work on her website here. And you can see more details of the class and book here.

Christine will be teaching her five day Poetry of Decay class (15th to 19th June 2020) introducing students to materials and processes that can create rich and textured surfaces based on their own photographs of decaying and eroded surfaces. Christines’ own work on absence is made even more poignant by her use of a restricted colour palette which she also uses in her class. You can find out more about Christine here. And you can see more details of the class and book here.

Inspirational images from Christine Chester

Creative Surface Design
DSC_0021.jpg

I’ve just finished setting up the studio for this weekends classes with my day a month Introduction to Surface Design students so it seemed like a great time to tell you about my new course - Creative Surface Design which starts in September 2019. I have developed the course for those of you who have had exposure to lots of different surface design techniques and have a head full of ideas but are not sure how to transfer ideas into finished cloth.

The course will be run over 5 weekends spread over an 8 month period. I’ve chosen this format rather than a day a month as being able to leave work on the bench and come back to it the next morning allows for deeper exploration of an idea; it allows you to take your time rather than hurrying to finish. Because I am ‘me’ the course will start with a focus on colour and the power of using a restricted colour set or family. There is a loose structure for each weekend but the exact content will be largely driven by the individual students. I’ll give demonstrations as needed but I am assuming a basic understanding of dyeing and printing techniques.

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that I’m not a ‘sketchbook’ type of person as I tend to work directly, intuitively onto fabric with a lot of my design process happening in my head. But I do keep a journal where I write down ideas, and importantly, where I critique my own work. I will be encouraging students on the Creative Surface Design course to keep some form of personal record - whatever form they are comfortable with - and will have a one to one review with each student each weekend to support them as they develop their ideas and their own way of working.

All the details are on my website. Or, maybe you can come see me at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, 22 to 25 November, stand TG626!

9 November 2018 1.jpg
Breakdown Printing
3 November 2018 1.jpg

It may be cold and grey outside but it is artfully grey inside! I’ve spent this week breakdown printing using squeezy bottles and wooden printing blocks. All in one single colour - grey. The humble squeezy bottle is such a useful tool. I have collected a range over the years with different size nozzles so I’ve been able to play with scale when using them to draw grids on my screen. And by varying the strength of the dye I have been able to play with value. I’m slowly building a palette of printed fabrics to use together.

3 November 2018 4.jpg

This is the first time I have used wooden print blocks with breakdown printing. I’ve tried a couple of things. Using them to stamp thickened dye onto the screen is quick and easy but it doesn’t get much dye on the screen so I’m only getting 1 or 2 good prints per screen. This would be OK in the summer when you can dry screens really quickly but much slower in the winter. The other way I have used them is to embedded them into a layer of thickened dye. Sometimes on their own. And sometimes combined with a grid on the screen. This shows much more promise.

I love this stage in developing a new series of work. Playing with new ideas. Auditioning fabrics. Stitching samples. Figuring out what is missing and going back to the bench to print more fabric. Figuring out if I need to include fabrics made using other surface design techniques. Who cares if it is cold and grey outside!

And whilst I wait for screens to dry I have been adding workshop dates to my calendar. There are only 3 places left on my Breakdown Your Palette workshops in 2019 so I have just added 2 workshops in 2020. How crazy is it to be planning that far ahead! The sessions are on 18th to 22nd May 2020 and 22nd to 26th June 2020. Details can be found here.

I’ve also added new dates for my 1 day a month Introduction to Surface Design course and over the next couple of weeks will be announcing some new 5 day workshops and, very excitingly, workshops with some wonderful guest tutors. Life is good. Now back to my bench!

3 November 2018 3.jpg
Just itchin'
28 October 2018.jpg

I have an itch. I can feel it growing inside of me, gaining momentum. It’s at the edge of my consciousness now whatever I’m doing. It needs scratching!

Yep, all the ideas about a new series of works on the printing and publishing industry that have been brewing in my head for weeks have started to come together. This is how I work. I don’t use sketchbooks when developing new ideas but I do like to have something pinned to my design wall or sat on my desk that is always there, in the corner of my eye, as I work on other things.

I started thinking about printing and how it has, as an industry, changed and continues to change when I printed some fabrics using simple grid based breakdown screens in July. I made a small quilt called Process Colour for my stand at Festival of Quilts expecting it to be a one-off. But I don’t think it’s going to be. Actually I know it isn’t going to be. I liked how the simplicity of a grid become complex it broke down. I liked printing in only black. I cut some thin strips of the printed fabrics. There is no text but they somehow remind me of newsprint. And so my mind has continued to churn ideas around.

I thought about introducing text on top of some of the fabrics using old wooden print blocks. I wasn’t sure how but I’ve had the blocks sat next to my computer for a while now and they have been the catalyst that has caused an ‘idea’ explosion in my head. I need to get the ideas out. I need to play. I need to print!