Saturday, 6 August 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - A Poem for your Pocket

So this month I got my inspiration from a feature in my very favourite magazine Cloth, Paper, Scissors, an American publication I have subscribed to for a couple of years.  Why I love the magazine is because it is full of inspirational mixed-media projects such as felting, collage, journalling, paper-making, embroidery, painting, jewellery making, book art and really just about anything creative using cloth, paper and scissors.


Being an American publication of course, all the specialist branded products for the projects are  American but I don't find this a problem as most of them can be found in the UK anyway at all good art supply shops or on the internet such as Art Van Go  (who are always at The Festival of Quilts and which just happens to be on at the NEC this coming week - an ideal excuse then for a rummage and to stock up on textile related art supplies). Any product that can't be sourced you will find that there is usually a British alternative and you might also just need to get used to different terminology for things  such as for example wadding is known as batting but you soon get used to it. This project was about creating poetic ruffles using recycled fabrics so I used DH's cast-off shirts to create another shirt pocket and if you look inside the pocket there is a hidden poem I have embroidered.

Monday, 25 July 2016

30 July 1966 and All That

So it is 50 years ago this week that England won the World Cup.  On Saturday 30th July 1966 to be precise and I can just about remember it.  It was a very sunny afternoon and me, my mum, dad and big brother were all sat in our living room watching the final on our little black and white TV.  I can remember it being sunny because we had to draw the curtains to stop the sun from shining on the TV screen. I don't really remember the match as such and didn't realise at the time the enormity of it all as I was too young and not much into football at all. I think I just lay on the settee a bit bored with it all. My dad coming from Oldham supported Oldham Athletic and my brother a  big Baggies fan (West Bromwich Albion) were of course on the edge of their seats. My mum as I recall did not follow any football team but no doubt kept everyone supplied with refreshments.  And I do actually remember the winning goal just minutes before the final whistle because my dad and brother leapt into the air and cheered so loud they made me jump out of my skin and made me cry. I have been afraid of sudden loud noises ever since.    

Life was so very different back then for footballers and fans alike. In a BBC article Did the 1966 World Cup change England?   it's interesting to note that some club players travelled to games on the bus or Tube or took summer jobs during the close season. England captain Bobby Moore was at one stage, according to his wife Tina, paid just £8 a week by his club West Ham United. England players could walk down the street unchallenged and when the tournament had finished, some of the new world champions drove home from London with their wives in modest family cars.

England team the night before the final

How different the story is today. I don't know much about football and really not that interested these days even when England play. There! I have said it!  It's out there. Is that not considered very unpatriotic of me? Reason being is because I feel very strongly that footballers today are vastly overpaid.  According to football finance experts at Deloitte, the average wage for Premier League players rose to £1.6m during the 2012-13 season - the latest available data. That equates to £31,000 a week, which is more than the average UK worker earns in a year.  

I hate the whole overpaid footballer culture where celebrity status seems to have taken precedence over any real talent (players such as Wayne Rooney are paid obscene amounts of money as high £300,000 a week). And that does not include earnings (if you can call it that) from sponsorship deals and exclusive photoshoots by Hello Magazine of newly renovated mansions, the boozy celebrity ridden million pound wedding receptions, the latest bikini shots of the happy couple on their honeymoon usually with said footballer rubbing the newly married WAG's swollen belly because she is with child, swiftly followed by the  offspring from WAG's swollen belly now in the newly decorated nursery. And for what?   I know from what people tell me that England played appallingly against Iceland in the Euro this year but then they went and sacked the manager. Like I say I don't know much about football but would it not just have made more sense to sack the overpaid players.

Blythe Spartans Ladies team were never beaten

Actually women footballers had the right idea. Did you know that women's football has a longer history than most people would expect. There were a number of women’s clubs in the 1890s and one in north London was reported to have attracted a 10,000 gate to a game at Crouch End.  Womens' football became huge during World War I when men went to fight on the front so women took their places both on the football field as well as the factories. Preston was the stronghold of women’s football in its early days, the famous Dick Kerr’s Ladies being formed there in 1894 and earning a lot of money for charity. Their match with St Helen’s Ladies on Boxing Day 1920 had 53,000 inside Goodison Park and thousands locked outside the ground trying to get in.

Dick Kerr's Ladies

Lily Parr

Lily Parr who played for Dick Kerr's Ladies had a shot so hard she once broke the arm of a professional male goalkeeper. She also earned the distinction of being the first woman to be sent off in an official football match for fighting. At 6ft tall she scored more than 1,000 goals during her 31-year-playing career, according to the National Football Museum. Of those, 34 were in her first season when she was aged just 14. Alas though their glory was not allowed to continue. With the war now over, the munitions factories closed and women found themselves being quietly shunted back into domestic life, returned to their "right and proper place" in society and in 1921 the powers that be, the FA (all men no doubt) stepped in and called on clubs belonging to the associations "to refuse the use of their grounds for such matches" and that "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged". The ban changed the course of the women's game forever.  It took till 1971 before the FA finally lifted the ban on women's football and 2011 saw the inaugural season of the Women's Super League.  As of September 2014, there were 2.6 million women and girls playing football in England and last year saw the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Dick Kerr's Ladies

Were it not for that ban in 1921 women would very probably have gone on to conquer the world (football wise at any rate) as they were true pioneers achieving phenomonal success and recognition. Let's play tribute then to Dick Kerr's Ladies, the women footballers of yesteryear and Sir Alf's glorious winning team of 66, the likes of which we will most probably never see again:

Gordon Banks
George Cohen
Jack Charlton 
Bobby Moore (c)
Ray Wilson
Nobby Stiles
Alan Ball
Bobby Charlton
Martin Peters
Geoff Hurst
Roger Hunt

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - Bespoke Wallpaper

I probably stitch as much onto paper as I do fabric. I love its versatility and if good quality paper is used then it can withstand a lot of stitching. For that reason I love wallpaper and that's why whenever I am in my local John Lewis I always visit the wallpaper section very handily placed next to the ever dwindling haberdashery section (don't get me started!!), and tear off a few little snippets which will come in right handy for stitching.  Farrow & Ball do some great samples too although for obvious reasons you can't just nip in and start merrily ripping away but on the pretext that you are decorating a room then you can come away with quite a few handy A4 size sheets.   Wrapping paper is also an excellent source and for only £1.20 a sheet Ikon Bookshop sell some fabulous designs and very good quality paper just right for stitching, not to mention wrapping presents. 

Here I have collaged and stitched four different papers together. Using a scalpel knife I cut out the birds and leaves from a JL sample, the flowers from two Ikon wrapping papers and then stitched them onto a F&B A4 sample.

I got the idea from artist Claire Coles who creates her own bespoke wallpaper by using layers of vintage wallpaper which are hand cut, collaged and intricately machine embroidered into place.

Above are two examples of Claire's wallpapers albeit on a much larger and grander scale than my humble page from the sketchbook but very inspiring all the same.

Loving her embroidered bird wallpaper.  I would love to wallpaper a whole wall in this style. Food for thought!  A rather ambitious project to add to all my other PhDs (projects half done) so maybe just a few more pages in my sketchbook then instead.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Prayer Box

Just lately it seems that every time you tune in to the news there is yet another massacre or atrocity resulting in injury and loss of life.  Now it is Nice's turn. When will all the killing stop?  Recently on holiday in Cornwall I came across this box hidden in the wall outside the local church, where you can post a prayer.  I am not an openly religious person but if ever there was a time for prayer it would be now and this box I suspect might be full today. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - The Pre-Raphs

Call me old fashioned, and as much as I like contemporary art, my real love is the Pre-Raphaelites.  The Pre-Raphaelites were a secret society of young artists led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt who were opposed to The Royal Academy's ideal as exemplified in the work of Raphael, a medieval Italian artist. I am lucky enough to live in a city that houses the most important collection of Pre-Raphaelite art anywhere in the world and that is held at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.  I have often wanted to recreate a Pre-Raph painting in some form, so that is what I have done this time for one of my Travelling Sketchbooks ( I now have two on the go which all gets very complicated when it gets to swopping time). 

So how do you recreate a famous painting?  The answer I think is just to get an essence of the original and not to follow it too slavishly.  Here I have used dry felting so I have put my own interpretation on it by using a medium I love working with.


For the base I used a square from an old Whitney Woollen Blanket (remember those awful scratchy blankets from years ago before the advent of soft duvets). Using a dry felting tool I felted strands of merino wool tops and for the sheep I have used actual scraps of sheep fleece collected from several country walks.

And this is the original painting that inspired me - 'Our English Coasts' (also known as Stray Sheep) painted in 1852 by William Holman Hunt.

For anyone who would like to know more about the Pre-Raph Brotherhood I can highly recommend watching Desperate Romantics which aired on BBC in 2009 and is available on DVD.  Having watched it when it was broadcast I am currently giving it a second watching as it stars the gorgeous Aiden Turner (aka Cap'n Ross Poldark another gorgeous hero) as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Watch and enjoy!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Voyage Round My Garden

Nothing like a warm sunny day to get me out in the garden with my camera and start snapping. It's like every time I have gone out there this week I find something new in bloom. However, some of the flowers aren't there long so it's best to capture them when they have just opened and before the storm showers.  I suspect some of the bigger and more delicate blooms like the poppies will have come a cropper from the rain tonight. If I know the name I will write it on but here's what I found in my garden today...

The magnificent Red Poppy

Geranium - 'Johnson's Blue'

Geranium Oxonianum - 'Wargrave Pink (Cranesbill)

More poppies but these are much larger blooms that tend to suffer in the rain if it is heavy and then flop over if not staked. 

Cerastium (Snow-in-Summer) forms a blanket of snow on top the rockery



The Aquilegias (Columbine) always the first of the summer flowers are sadly all fading now and going to seed but they do tend to self-seed everywhere for even more flowers next year.

My first Clematis Jackmanii bloom - as big as a saucer (or a tea plate I think).

An old dug up root of a tree waiting to be put in the border to add a touch of sculpture

The lesser-spotted plumbers stopped for lunch

And who should I find down at the end of the garden trying to get some shade but next door's cat - a regular visitor to our garden especially when we are having a barbecue oddly enough.

A lovely climbing rose which at last after at least 10 years has only now started to climb.  Lots of food for thought here then in terms of inspiration for watercolours, embroidery, or some mixed-media work. 

Ahh yes. More boys in blue. Everything stops for tea! 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Travelling Sketchbooks - Flowers for Lia

Last month I came across a discarded shopping list in a supermarket trolley.  To be honest I have found quite a few of these lists  recently so have started collecting them as they give such an insight into how other people live their lives and what they load into their trolleys. Very often while I am patiently waiting in a queue at the supermarket checkout I study what the person in front of me has loaded onto the conveyor belt. It gets the mind going as to what kind of social situation they are in - single, students, OAPs budgeting on a pension, married with 2.4 kids, what they might be doing at the weekend, will it be a BBQ, dinner party (or these days food for friends), an intimate meal for 2, brunch with friends too drunk to go home from the night before or Sunday lunch with the in-laws and out-laws? All very intriguing to say the least!!

So this is the list I found:

flowers for Lia 
cream x 2
still lemonade
bottle fizz pink x 2
shower gel
bag potatoes
salmon steaks
green beans 
white onion

I picked this up on a Friday but judging by the amount of items on the list, this is not a cumbersome drudgery of a big shop, but maybe a Friday end of the working week quick dash round the supermarket in my lunch hour thing. Quite a celebration by the look of it. Flowers top the list. Flowers for Lia! Who is Lia? Is the shopper a man or a woman, Lia's mother, father, son, daughter or her lover?  Is the shower gel for a quick freshen up (perhaps after work) before Lia arrives and while the pink fizz is chilling?  So, a date night, birthday celebration or family get together?  Lia must love flowers and pink fizz that's for sure.  Will she get the steak and chips or salmon, potatoes and green beans? Dinner for 4 perhaps with 2 non-meat eating friends? One thing is for sure though,  that there will be more than enough pink fizz and rose wine to go round.  

I like using found items of ephemera in my work and stitching words and text, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to recreate the shopping list as an embroidery with a touch of embelishment for a bit of added fizz. So Lia, wherever you are and whoever you are, I hope you had a damn good night!