Posts in Textile Art
14 days to go ....

Just 14 days until this years Festival of Quilts opens at the NEC, Birmingham and along with it my gallery Deconstruction-Reconstruction-Evolution. I’ve just started work on the final three pieces and am reasonably comfortable that I will be ready with a few days to spare. A few days to catch up on sleep and recharge my batteries! I need it. I have really pushed myself for the last few weeks - I have dug deep as the saying goes.

But isn’t it easy to find that extra level of energy when you are doing something you love? Tired but happy sums me up right now.

Of course there have had to be some sacrifices in the name of art. I can confirm that not cleaning the bathroom for 8 days does not lead to an outbreak of plague. That having toast and jam for breakfast and lunch each day saves time. Especially if you leave the bread, butter and jam next to the toaster. And use the same plate. That my family showed a deep level of empathy by not commenting on the fact that I wore the same top for four days. Actually they are all male so probably didn’t even notice. Which also makes not cleaning the bathroom easier to get away with ….

As well as making art I have been busy doing lots of other stuff in preparation for the exhibition. I have a delivery of more books arriving tomorrow, new flyers are also on route and the fabulous Moo Printing are busy printing postcards. And I have been very honoured to takeover the Festival of Quilts Instagram account for three days this week. If you ‘do’ instagram have a look at @thefestivalofquilts.

And now I need to get back to work ….

Evolution part 2
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Time to get real ….. I’ve auditioned fabrics and stitched some samples but now I need to commit to a ‘proper’ piece. And for me that inevitably means a large scale piece. Time for a quick drawing on a scrap of paper to work out exactly what size and I’m off!

7 April 2019 2.jpg

First I take all my beautiful breakdown printed fabrics and cut them into rectangles. I don’t ‘cherry pick’, I just cut everything up. I take the cut pieces and jumble them up then close my eyes and pull them out one by one ready to lay them down in rows on my big print bench. I try to make this process as random as I can. The control freak in me would agonise over this part of the process and would inevitable produce a background that would not be as interesting as when I let serendipity happen.

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I sew the pieces together into long rows and put them up on my design wall. I like to leave the rows up there for a while and allow myself to change a handful of pieces to balance the colour and composition of the background. Just a handful - I do not give in to the temptation to change too many pieces!

I then prepare my backing fabric and my wadding (I use acrylic felt as I like how flat it is). Having cut them to size I use an adhesive spray to stick them together. I draw parallel lines, 2 inches apart, on my wadding and use a ‘stitch and flip’ process to sew my rows together and to the backing in a single process. This way I can ensure that my rows are sewn together accurately. Yes, I fully embrace my inner control freak for this part of my process! And it has the advantage that I don’t have a separate basting stage. I have always hated basting quilts!

I now have my background. It is ready for me to add what I call my top structures and to add stitch. As with my Ruins series I am stitching lots and lots of parallel lines in my new Print series. I can’t image not adding stitch but at the same time I don’t want the stitching to distract from the fabrics. Simple lines seems to work well with fabrics that contain so much detail. In one of my samples for this series I stitched a word as my top structure. I’ll probably use this idea for one or more of the pieces I will make in this series but for this first piece I had a light bulb moment and have gone in a different direction. And it is a direction that could not be sampled on a small scale piece. Yes my ‘sample’ is 290cm wide by 100cm high and is going to have a prime position in my upcoming exhibition so you only get see these work in progress shots!

There is a saying that fortune favours the brave …. I’m certainly hoping so!

Just itchin'
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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!

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. 


The Final Countdown
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Well maybe that is a little bit dramatic but it is now only 44 days until my exhibition with Helen Conway opens at The World of Glass in St Helens. And only 37 days until we drop off the art work. Today Helen and I met with the curator Hannah to discuss layout and the minutia of things we need to do between now and then.

Getting the layout of the exhibition finalised is really important. Hannah and her team will hang the work and we wanted to be sure that we have the right number of pieces to fill this beautiful space. Turns out we can include an extra 4 metres of wall without crowding the space. Good job I made more pieces than I thought I needed. It does however mean that I will need to correct the scaled 3D model I have made!

So my to do list for the next 37 days:

  • Send out the remaining Preview Invites.
  • Finish final quilt (the original piece was finished in December but I liked it so much that I submitted it to the European Quilt Triennial. So now I am making a replacement. A 135cm x 240cm replacement. Good job I work in series!).
  • Cut, drill and label top and bottom battens for three large quilts.
  • Make storage bags for each large quilt.
  • Iron, de-lint and carefully roll three large quilts in tissue paper before storing in their bags.
  • Add hanging mechanism and mirror plates to 20 small pieces stretched over canvas.
  • Wrap these 20 pieces in bubble wrap, find a box to store them in and print out a hanging plan for them.
  • Decide whether 6 medium sized pieces currently stretched over canvas would actually look better framed (OK so maybe I should of thought of this earlier!)
  • Add hanging mechanism and mirror plates to said 6 pieces.
  • Wrap them in bubble wrap and print out a hanging plan for them.
  • Collect 8 framed pieces from Manchester Custom Framing.
  • These will come with hanging mechanisms and will be carefully wrapped so will just need a hanging plan printing.
  • Make labels for everything. Sounds simple, takes forever to get them perfect.
  • Get postcards printed ready for sale in the gallery.
  • Decide whether to have limited edition prints for sale and get them printed.
  • Get poster printed onto foam board for entrance to gallery (Helen is organising the design).
  • Organise something for visitors to leave their details and comments on.
  • Sort out drinks and nibbles for the preview with Helen.
  • Decide what I will wear (this is the item that stresses me out most!).


As messy as it gets!

I recently posted that I can't created in chaos. And that messy in my studio is when there are snippets of thread and fabric on the floor. Well I got really, really messy (for me) over the long weekend we have just enjoyed in the UK. I also got sore feet from standing for hours. And my rotary cutter needed a long lie down in a dark room afterwards. But look what I got in return - trays of cut 'bricks' and bondaweb backed 'brickettes' ready to build backgrounds in my Ruins and my View series.

I love printing and it is so tempting to just keep on printing, especially on sunny days when breakdown screens dry quickly. But it is only by cutting up the fabrics that I can see if I have the right balance of colour and pattern. I can see that I have enough fabric to start making backgrounds. I use the bricks to piece backgrounds for my large quilts and I use the brickettes to fuse backgrounds for smaller works. But I can also see that I will need more of the darker fabrics in both series to complete the work I am planning for the rest of this year. Which means more printing. Happy days!

Find something you love

I make a mean lasagne. I could eat it every day but hate washing saucepans so guess what - I don't want to make lasagne every day. But I love all aspects of breakdown printing and I could very happily spend every day making beautiful fabric. I love mixing the dyes and preparing the screens. I love pinning out my cloth and pulling the screens. I even love washing my screens, washing the objects I use on my screens and washing my printed cloth. Because I love it I have spent hundreds of hours learning to  sort of control the outcomes and it now forms the foundation for all of my art. I made my first breakdown screens during a Committed to Cloth workshop in 2010. I wasn't really aiming for anything - I just picked a couple of colours and made two screens.

I printed the golden yellow screen first by pulling through with more golden yellow. I wasn't that impressed. Then I pulled the petrol green screen on top. I was worried that I had lost all the first layer. And then I washed the cloth and feel in love.

The joy of breakdown printing for me is in the detail. Those tiny areas of texture that are impossible to create in any other way. When I made that first piece of printed fabric into a piece of finished art I added stitch that mirrored some of that detail. Today I use breakdown in a very different way but thought you might like to see how I started!

Knots and Crosses (detail)

Sampling and getting there in the end!

I started sampling ideas for my new series using a selection of dyed fabrics pulled from my stash. Early outcomes did not exactly grab me so I also tried using stencils to take colour out (discharge) and to add colour. Interesting but still not right. I added back colour. And got rather depressed until I decided to change the scale and to add stitch. Bingo!

The sample above is definitely a step in the right direction. However looking at it I realised that the colours of the appliqued strips were not really 'me'. Being dyed fabric, they lacked the texture I usually work with. Pieces from this new series will be shown alongside pieces from my Ruins series in the exhibition I am doing with Helen Conway at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery in Autumn 2018. So I pulled out my colour diary and compared my little sample with the colour family used in Ruins. The background for the new series uses a colour family made from black and petrol green. In my Ruins series I use petrol green and a colour family made from rust and black. Doh ... it seems so obvious now!

Plan B .....

In between wrapping presents last week I did manage to prepare and pull some breakdown screens. I got some really promising marks by using a screen made with torn strips of freezer paper gently ironed onto the screen before rollering on a very thin layer of black thickened dye. I also made a screen using strips of torn masking tape. I wanted the marks to be delicate so pulled through with lots of print paste. And replaced the paste if it got tinted with colour.

However those lovely marks only appeared from the first and sometimes second pull. After that everything went 'blobby' and not at all what I wanted.

I have found before that I get the best marks and the most 'pulls' when I dry breakdown screens outside on warm sunny days. Drying out screens quickly and thoroughly is not easy in the winter. I have tried drying this batch of screens next to and above radiators and I still only get one good pull. Trying to develop a new palette of textiles based on this low success rate could be really frustrating! Luckily I am not working to a deadline so, although Plan B looks to be a good one I am putting it on hold until spring. I wonder if Santa can bring me an early spring?