Posts tagged Quilting
Artist interrupted

One of the things I like about my new day job is that there is less travelling and generally more 'regular' hours. I will have more time in the studio and be better able to plan my output.

But this week I have had a couple of very long days and on Saturday I fly out to the US for a week. So my plan to work at the bench breakdown printing with my new colourway is on hold. I print using thickened procion dyes on cotton so I could leave the printed pieces rolled up in plastic for weeks before I wash them out but I prefer to get in a rhythm of printing, washing / drying, assessing then printing. Don't ask my why but the first piece of fabric I print after a period away from the bench is always disappointing and often butt ugly!

Instead I have spent my few hours in the studio this week working on my piece for the SAQA call Made in Europe. All the 'construction' work is complete and I am now stitching lots and lots of parallel lines. If you look closely above you will see that I keep my lines straight by using my walking foot as a guide and placing masking tape strips about 1 inch apart. I may not be in complete control of my schedule but boy do I control those lines!

I found my 'voice' but where is the volume dial?

Work in Progress Over the last couple of years I have definitely found my 'voice'. Or my 'visual style'. Or whatever you want to call that sense of confidence that comes from developing a set of processes (or studio practice) that transforms ideas into finished pieces that are recognisably 'me'. I can point to three things that helped - making a conscious decision to work in series, attending a Colour Studies course with Leslie Morgan and moving into my purpose built studio.

I currently have two 'active' series. The Ruins series which has given me so much success and the Still / Storm series which still feels in it's infancy. In both cases I started by developing a colour palette then developed a set of printed and / or dyed fabrics. I collage and stitch samples during which ideas for 'full sized' pieces start to flow. Some ideas are very vague and require more sampling. Other ideas pop up fully formed. And demanding attention. Like the piece I am working on now.

I keep a list of potential 'calls for entry', particularly those without a theme or size restrictions. But I let the work itself dictate what size and even what form my finished pieces will take. And I no longer give in to the temptation to create 'one-offs' to fit a specific call for entry. This limits where I might place my work but sometimes there is a really good match between my work and a particular call. Such as the current SAQA 'Layered Voices' call. The piece is going to be 4 metre long strip hung such that the bottom section is draped and partially hidden on the floor. It will be double sided. And stitched with hundreds and hundreds of parallel lines. And every end of thread will be carefully sewn in. So shouted my voice!

Unfortunately my voice does not care that the call ends on 30th September and that I start a new day job on the 12th. Or that we are hanging the next Etcetera exhibition at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery this week. Ho hum. Better get back to my sewing machine!

Being brave

A word of warning before I start - those you know me might want to sit down.

Ruins 7 - work in progress

I have now finished the background stitching on Ruins 7. It is big; a massive 5 square metres. Which equates to hundreds of parallel lines of stitching achieved by spending hours and hours at my sewing machine. And it looks great - well worth the investment I have made in it so far.

I wanted to do something a little different with this piece and had, in my mind, stitched silhouettes of ruined, bombed out buildings. I went on-line to get some images to work from. Sadly there are far too many images out there - from London and Dresden in the second World War to Aleppo today. I started by sketching in a notebook but could get no sense of scale. So I decided to draw out the full sized design. Cue lots of hours drawing, tearing up paper and drawing again until I was sort of happy. I draw onto blank newsprint paper as I know it tears easily and thought I could pin it to the quilt and stitch through.

I thought wrong. Trying to manhandle the quilt and paper on my sewing machine was horrendous. If I had a swear box in the studio I could have paid my mortgage off!! I thought long and hard about my options …. And decided to draw the design directly onto the quilt. And not with a pencil (which wouldn't really show up) or with a water soluble marker pen (as I have no intention of letting the piece near water). I decided to use a black permanent marker pen. Yeaks!!

I am using free machine quilting in a black thread to 'etch' over the lines so most of the marks should be hidden. Assuming I don't make a mistake …… Is that brave or really stupid?

Storm 2 (Dark)

7 February 2016 Here's a sneak preview of Storm 2 (Dark). I didn't start with the intention of stitching lots and lots of black lines but that is where I ended up. It makes the piece darker than intended, hence the title, and reflects my mood as I stitched.

Mindless or Mindful - the joy of process

Ruins 5 - background quilting completed Not everybody would find pleasure in stitching so many metres of straight lines but, thankfully, I do. With an average speed of 20 metres per hour it has taken over 22 hours to complete the background quilting on this large Ruins piece. Keeping the lines straight and equally spaced requires just enough concentration to stop this being a mindless task. Instead I have found it to be mindful. Whilst stitching my mind stops racing, stops worrying, stops trying to solve all the problems in my life.

I've hinted at some 'life' issues in previous posts. For the last few months my husband and I have been providing 24 hour care for our eldest son who has been in a very dark and troubled state of mind. It has been a distressing and exhausting time. Although we have had great support from our family, friends and from my 'day job' I don't think I could have coped without having my studio and my art to take refuge in. Working in series has meant that there has always been something to work on. From stitching straight lines on days when my mind needed calming to composing new pieces on days when I have felt stronger. There is a simple joy in stepping into a studio full of colour, in working with cloth, in stitching straight lines!

Over the last few weeks I have also pieced together another large scale Ruins piece. The composition of the background is quite different from the earlier works and it took me a long time to audition all the 'bricks' into a something that I was happy with. Tiredness probably played a part as I'm usually much more confident when I am working on composition. The piece is 275cm wide by 140cm high and has 'light', 'medium' and 'dark' bands. Over the coming weeks I will stitch using many, many more parallel lines. Some would find the prospect boring or maybe even intimidating - me, if find it joyful.

New Ruins composition