Out and about in Glasgow and Birmingham
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I’m off on my travels again soon so have been busy in the studio this week getting ready. Preparing and printing handouts, laminating new signs for the stand (I love laminating), deciding which quilts and fabrics to take to display and, the time consuming bit, mixing textile inks, cutting fabric and making up workshop kits. And figuring out what I need to take to demonstrate breakdown printing and screen printing. I really enjoy the occasional week like this - I started with a very long to-do list and have been diligently ticking them off turning what seemed like a mountain of work into a tidy and labelled set of boxes ready to load in the car.

All this activity because in three weeks time I (and my partner in crime, son Joe) will be at the Scottish Quilting Show (part of the Creative Craft Show) at Glasgow SEC from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th March. I will be demonstrating on stand ZM26 . I’m looking forward to the show especially because we’ll be staying with my daughter who lives in Glasgow.

The following week I’ll be at the Fashion and Embroidery Show (alongside the Sewing for Pleasure Show) at Birmingham NEC. I’m there from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th March on stand ZL40. I’ve booked an AirBnB for the duration - not as nice as staying with Jess but better than a hotel.

I will also be doing a 90 minute workshop called Colourful Cityscapes each day at both shows. It’s my first time at these shows so if you are visiting please come by and say hello - it is lovely seeing friendly faces!

In case you haven’t noticed I am most definitely not a last minute person! But getting ready three weeks early is early even for me. That’s because I have two groups of students in the studio between now and then. I also have some BIG stuff happening which I hope to share with you next week. And I’m taking 5 days off to go on my annual retreat with my buddies from the North West Contemporary Quilt Group.

Yes I am taking 5 days off. I will be taking my sewing machine and expect to put in many hours quilting my next Ruins piece surrounded by good company and sustained by good cake and the odd glass of wine. Can’t wait!

Discharged with full honours!
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My day a month Introduction to Surface Design students continue to amaze me! This last weekend we focused on discharge which is the process of removing colour. We used four different discharge agents, two as liquids and two as pastes. This allowed the students to screen print, thermofax print, resist discharge in a vat, paint and use low immersion techniques. Great fun albeit a bit smelly at times!

Linda Hill - thickened Formosol applied using a screen with a masking tape resist

Linda Hill - thickened Formosol applied using a screen with a masking tape resist

Jean Martin - collection of fabrics discharged using thickened Formosol and deColourant

Jean Martin - collection of fabrics discharged using thickened Formosol and deColourant

Using discharge can add new lines or shapes to a dyed or printed fabric. Although it is a process that removes colour the fabric rarely goes back to pure white. More often you get pale shades so I think of discharge as a process that adds more colour. It is an integral part of surface design. But it is also a great tool for ‘recovering’ fabric that you don’t like. I call my Thiox immersion vat the redemption bucket!

The discharge process is also covered in depth in my 5 day Colour Your Palette workshop. Places are still available for the course in April. More details can be found here.

Jan Walmesley - thickened Formosol used with a thermofax screen

Jan Walmesley - thickened Formosol used with a thermofax screen

Lynda Edwards - discharged using household bleach

Lynda Edwards - discharged using household bleach

Deconstruction - Reconstruction - Evolution
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It is exactly 6 months until the opening of my solo exhibition, Deconstruction - Reconstruction - Evolution, at this years Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. I have a lot of work to do between now and then but at least I have finally decided on a name for the exhibition.

I am working on three connected bodies of abstract work taking their inspiration from industries that have touched my life, or have shaped my environment. There will be new work from my Traces series that looks at the coal mining industry and those iconic structures that have been erased (deconstruction) from our landscape. There will be new pieces from my Ruins series. This time I’m looking at Cotton mills in Manchester and how some have become homes to studio spaces, retail units and light industries. This is the reconstruction bit. And finally, a new series looking at evolution in the print and publishing industry as it adapts to change in demand and changes in technology. Sometime between now and then I will write / agonise over an artists statement that puts my ideas into good English but hopefully you get the idea.

It is a big 6 metre x 9 metre corner gallery so I have two outside walls that I can hang work on. I’ve also asked for an internal wall about 4 metres long that divides the space. Taking into account entrances I have about 40 metres of wall to work with. I have finished pieces for about a third of the space. And I have two piles of printed and dyed fabrics ….. Yes, I am going to be busy!

The other thing I got round to doing this week was a tidy up of my website. I’ve added a few new images. And I’ve removed the finished artworks from my shop although they are still for sale (contact me if you are interested). The number of sales / enquiries I get for finished work is tiny compared to those for my workshops so I decided to de-clutter the shop page. I think it looks much better!

Letting my students do the talking ...

Top left: Sue Warburton - breakdown screen. Top right: Maggie Pearson - open screen and sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom left: Jan Walmesley - sticky back plastic resist screen. Bottom right: Tracey Ramsay - interfacing stencil screen.

I’ve had another couple of wonderful days with my Introduction to Surface Design students. The diversity of their work is amazing. So I will shut up and let their work do the talking ….

Top left: Tracy Fox - breakdown screen. Top right: Lynda Edwards - mylar stencil screen.

Top left: Jean and Tracey hard at work in the studio. Top right: Phil Langford - breakdown screen. Bottom left: Linda Hill - sticky back plastic resist screens. Bottom right: Jean Martin - thermofax screens.

Introduction to Surface Design - new course dates
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My current Introduction to Surface Design students are in the studio this weekend and I am excited to see their work from last time and what they do this time. I have eleven students split between two groups and every single one of them works differently, each of them creating unique pieces of fabric. It’s a real treat to see them develop their ideas!

This weekend will be session 5 in the day a month for 10 month course and our second session on screen printing. Last time we used open screen techniques and masking tape resists to print background. We also used thermofax screens to print background. This time we will be printing the breakdown screens that we made at the last session and using sticky back plastic resists and freezer paper resists to add detail to our backgrounds as well as to use on new pieces of fabric. As per usual we will pack a lot into the day!

My next Introduction to Surface Design courses start on Saturday 2nd February and on Sunday 3rd February. I have places available on both - have a look at the Saturday group and Sunday group pages for details of the dates and what is covered. And feel free to contact me for more details!

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My Road to 'Ruins' - a talk
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The first ‘first’ of 2019 is just around the corner. I will be giving a talk ‘My Road to Ruins’ on Tuesday 15th January at 7.30pm at All Hallows Church Centre in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. It has been organised by Maggie Pearson of the Contemporary Threads group but is open to all. if you are free and in the area.

I’ve been asked to give talks a few times in the past and shied away from it as I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say and I’d much rather be in the studio stitching. But I decided that, as I am now a full time artist and teacher, I better get my act together! After all I have enjoyed talking about my work at my exhibitions, when I’ve had a stand at a show and during classes in my studio so I should be OK standing up in front of an audience, shouldn’t I?

But what to talk about? I have gone with the obvious and put together a talk that starts with my first ever quilt (made in 1988 from polycotton sheeting and truly 1980’s hideous) to the present day. This might have been easier if I had kept more of the early stuff but those of you who have been reading for a while will know that I have regular clear outs of ‘stuff’. Luckily I have photographs of some of the earlier pieces although not of that first quilt so you will have to take my word for it that it was hideous.

I do, however, have a photo of my second quilt, made ten years later in 1998 from some furnishing fabrics which I thought I would share. My sister is standing on her bed holding it up. I think it would be fair to say that my work has moved on ………

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Well I wasn't expecting that!
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2018 was an interesting year. Interesting is one word for it. Unexpected, eventful, scary, wonderful would all be other good words. But I think I will settle for life-changing.

I’ve just read my post from 31st December 2017. I was pleased that I had spent more hours in the studio in 2017 than in 2016 and produced more work. I was busy working on pieces for the two exhibitions I had with Helen Conway in spring 2018. And I was planning to enter more calls for entry in 2018 and to find further exhibition opportunities. On the family front we were all still reeling from my mother-in-laws illness and passing but hoped for a quieter, healthier, less sad 2018. I was out of work but fully expecting to be back wearing my corporate hat within a few months. Life was on track.

Turns out that life wanted me to take a different track.

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It proved difficult to find the right job and with an unexpected increase in my caring responsibilities at home I eventually realised that the life I thought I was going to have, balancing a demanding day job, caring for my family and making art was unsustainable and would probably make me miserable trying. I needed a Plan B. A plan that better fitted my family and that allowed me to continue to make art.

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Teaching surface design was something I had planned to do a bit of in my sixties as I creaked towards retirement. I had given the occasional workshop to different textile groups and always loved it. And it was something I always intended to use my studio for. But would people want to learn from me? Could it pay the mortgage?

So I did my research, crunched some numbers, talked with friends who were teachers and friends who might be potential students, talked with my family ….. and made a big decision.

A seriously big decision to become a full time artist and teacher. And because I am ‘me’ I have given it my all. The studio has been named, Urban Studio North, reorganised and a rather splendid bathroom has been built. Courses have been developed and guest tutors booked. I’ve had stands at shows, demonstrated and given short workshops. And best of all I have taught some absolutely brilliant students and loved every minute of it!

2018 was a year of ‘firsts’. Full of change and full of new challenges. But there is so much more that I plan to do in 2019! So many more challenges to face, so many more ‘firsts’. …… Happy New Year!

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Happy Christmas Everyone!
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The presents are wrapped. The cards have been posted. The tree is decorated. The fridge is overflowing. And the house is clean. Well, as clean as it’s likely to get. Hooray!

Time to get back to the studio and more breakdown printing! I’m keeping it seasonal. The above print was made by embedding crumpled Christmas wrapping paper in thickened dye on a screen and letting the screen dry under a stack of books. Well you didn’t expect me to use a traditional Christmas photo did you?

That said, I would like to wish everyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook / Instagram a very Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year. And I would especially like to say thank you to my lovely students - 2018 has been a year of firsts and your support has meant a great deal to me.

Love and best wishes,

Leah

Simply WOW!
Work by Lynda Edwards

Work by Lynda Edwards

This last weekend the eleven students in my Introduction to Surface Design groups printed some absolutely fabulous pieces of fabric. It was a real pleasure to watch them work and witness the occasional happy dance. The sessions were on using screen printing, thermofax screens, masking tape, string and paper resists to create backgrounds. They all watched me give the same demonstrations and had access to the same tools but each produced truly unique work. Brilliant!

Work above by Sue Wharburton, Maggie Pearson, Debs Nixon and Lynda Edwards. And below - breakdown screens ready to be pulled during next months sessions.

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