Monday, 30 April 2012

My Sewing Room Haven

Tomorrow the countdown to our Degree Show really starts with it being the 1st of May. Our Private View is on 31st May, although all our work has to be ready for final assessments on 24th May.  Not much  pressure then! There are never enough hours in the day and there is still such a lot to do in terms of work, getting my website up and running, artist's statements etc. and just generally running around like a mad thing.   It's all been worth it though and I'm loving sewing my quilt.  I can honestly say I'm never happier than when I'm sat working in my little sewing room which is also my spare bedroom. There is a single sofa bed in there should anyone stay but they would have to jockey for position with my sewing machine.  Plenty of reading matter about art, embroidery and textiles though, should they want to read in bed.

If anyone has been watching Rachel Khoo in The Little Paris Kitchen  on BBC2 then you will know what I mean as my room is about as small as her kitchen so I keep everything well organised courtesy of Ikea, otherwise I would never find anything. It looks chaotic but it's organised chaos.

Note the obligatory Quality Street storage tins
The little sofa bed acts as a second table

Becky the Bassett hound guards the linen basket stuffed with my stash of knitting wool
Love my diddy ironing board
Another thing I really love about my sewing room is that it's probably the only room in the house where I have complete control over the radiator and don't have to suffer comments from DH like "If you're cold then put another jumper on!"   My sewing room is my haven away from the craziness of the rest of the house where I can sit and sew to my heart's content and listen to my music.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Made in the Middle at mac Birmingham

A bit behind with posting this as I am working hard on my Degree Show quilt but I desperately wanted to go and see Made in the Middle at mac Birmingham before it closed on the 15th April.  An amazing exhibition of contemporary craft from Midland based artists.  Many of the artists have abandoned their original careers to make second careers in the art world.  Jan Garside for example, was originally a midwife, then attended night classes, an access course to further education and then went on to do a degree in textiles.  A similar story to myself as I had worked for BT for donkeys years and after going to night school to do GCSE Art, decided to make the great escape from my beloved employers into the crazy world of art by way of a Foundation course and now I'm on a Fine Art degree.  In Trace she has hand-woven  shoes that sit on an a vintage church pew chair with hand woven fabrics and laser cut garlands.
One of the themes of the exhibition was 'New Skills' with many established artists embracing new digital techniques.  Karina Thompson is a textile artist specialising in embroidery who now uses digital embroidery in much of her work.  Her piece 60 Beats a Minute is a quilt made of embroideries of an echocardiogram which is an ultrasound test of the heart.
Textile artist Imogen Luddy is also turning to new digital techniques by combining the traditional practice of crochet and embroidery with laser cutting and marquetry.   I loved her table laid with  a metal laser-cut cross-stitch tablecloth complete with laser-cut cake stand, embroidered napkins and wooden chair with laser marquetry crocheted doillies. Love the plates on the wall combining ceramics with digital printing and  traditional crocheted doillies.      
I couldn't miss out knitting which is always dear to my heart.  Amy Twigger-Holroyd is known for her knitted garments but she has developed a new technique called 'stitch-hacking' which means she alters the pattern in an existing garment to create text by laddering and re-forming the stitches.

Also exhibiting was mixed media artist Jennifer Collier from Unit Twelve .  Jennifer runs a thriving gallery and workshop space at Unit Twelve just outside Stafford.  I've been a fan of her work for a few years now, ever since she did a workshop at my daughter's school. Earlier this month I attended one of the workshops there run by Emily Notman one of the other artists at Unit Twelve - see my previous post Jennifer Collier & Emily Notman at Unit Twelve. Jennifer creates the most amazing paper sculptures by stitching, moulding and waxing. 

These ceramic plates put me in mind of the pots of Grayson Perry. Sorry, I forgot to write the artist's name down.

 Zoe Hillyard  has a textile background and combines the china of the Midlands pottery industry with fabrics by sewing all the broken pieces together to form a 'ceramic patchwork'. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Uttoxeter Quilt and Embroidery Show 2012

Strong imagery of a modern world
Last Friday in the interests of research I went to the Uttoxeter Quilts and Embroidery Show at Uttoxeter Racecourse. I love this show because as well as the brilliant quilts on display there are traders and textile artists demonstrating their techniques and doing mini workshops.  It's a much more accessible show than the sometimes overwhelming exhibitions at the NEC.  Because I am making a quilt for my degree show I was interested to see what was on show in the way of contemporary quilts. Here are just some of the ones that caught my eye.

I loved the figurative work of this quilt - a cautionary tale of a lottery win
The colours really glowed on this one and the stitching  was just amazing

Love this one because its knitted

This was a brilliant demo of Thermofax screen printing which is a method of screen printing that is a lot less involved than the traditional method.  Ready made screens are available of numerous  designs and Thermofax will also make screens of your own design.
I had to include this because it was dedicated to the work and lyrics of Leonard Cohen of whom I'm a great fan 
Here is my good friend and mentor June Parkinson alongside some of her brilliant work. June was also  exhibiting with her textile group Eclectica. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Jennifer Collier & Emily Notman at Unit Twelve

Spent a lovely Easter Saturday on a 'Manipulated Wall Hanging' workshop run by mixed media artist Emily Notman learning how to hand dye scraps of fabric using inks and bleaches, manipulate, layer and trap found materials to create a new fabric and then embroider into it to create a small wall hanging.

Located at Tixall, near Stafford, Unit Twelve is a converted cow shed which has been transformed into a contemporary craft exhibition and workspace run by mixed media artist Jennifer Collier.  Jennifer shares Unit Twelve with four other artists including Emily.  Workshops run all through the year on most weekends on topics such as jewellery making to making paper garments, book binding and printing.  Jennifer curates quarterly exhibitions in the exhibition space at Unit Twelve with the current Spring Loaded featuring artists including Emily Notman and ceramicist Amanda Mercer

The Wire Work of Louise Wilson
Emily Notman

Amanda Mercer
Unit Twelve is a great place to visit and a brilliant venue for a workshop. It was so inspiring to see the other artists' studios which are an integral part of the workshop area. Jennifer really looked after us making endless cups of coffee and we had cake in the afternoon.  A really lively and friendly atmosphere and I can't wait to do another workshop here.
Emily Notman in her studio in front of some of her work
Jacqui Thompson & Jacqui Thomson

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Conversations over Knitting

Another great stitch experience from the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch Show at the NEC - this time a knitting experience and one I was able to take part in.  'For the Record: Conversations over Knitting' is a project run by Ruth Morris and Belinda Harris-Reid in collaboration with the UK HandKnitting Association,  consisting of a collection of knitted squares pinned to a huge board to create a wall of hand-knitting and knitters' thoughts.  The little bias-knitted blocks, all in cream, will be a living document of the knitters' voice and preserved as a testimony to the unique and special world of hand-knitting.
Ruth and Belinda in front of the wall of knitting
After walking round the show all day it was good to get chance to sit down and rest my weary legs and while away a happy half hour knitting my block and chatting with the other knitters.

This is my block which I dedicated to the memory of my dear old Mum who taught me how to knit and who I always think of when I am knitting.  She could knit for England and her favourite saying was 'You can never have too many cardigans.'  

To take part in this brilliant project visit Ruth and Belinda's Conversations over Knitting page for details and to download the label to record your thoughts and then post your block to them.  The pattern is on their website but I've put it below too - it's really quick and easy to do and a good idea for using up oddments to knit a cosy little throw, cot cover or blanket for the dog:

How to make the bias block motif

This magic square has an old, old story to tell, its roots are thrift and love.

Find a pair of needles that feel comfortable with your wool. Size 4mm is good with ‘double knitting’ 5mm for Aran weight, and so on…..

In cream yarn start the tale by casting-on three stitches. For every row: knit two stitches, make one stitch, then knit to the end of the row - until the work on your needle is 10cms wide. Then knit two rows without increasing. Next, for every row: knit two stitches, then knit two stitches together, and knit to the end of the row. When there are three stitches left, cast them off. Your bias block should measure 10cms.

   Happy knitting!

Monday, 2 April 2012

More Textile Art at the Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch Show

Also at the Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch show last week I had the pleasure of watching a printing demo given by textile artist Bobby Britnell.  Bobby is a really lovely lady and took the time to show me her mono-printing techniques and show me a few other tricks on printing.  She does workshops from her home in South Shropshire on textiles, drawing and painting.
There was just such a lot to see at the show I was a bit overwhelmed but here's just some of the work  that caught my eye.

South West Textiles Group
South West Textiles Group 

Glimpses of Blighty Madeira Threads Competition

Glimpses of Blighty Madeira Threads Competition

Glimpses of Blighty Madeira Threads Competition

Meniscus Textile Artists -  Fastenings
Meniscus Textile Artists - Fastenings

Huge apologies to my good friend June Parkinson and the Eclectica Textile Group.  I was so busy looking round and chatting to them on their stand that I forgot to take pictures of their wonderful work. Eclectica is an exhibiting group of eight textile artists based in the West Midlands who produce contemporary textile art.  Once again really sorry June and Eclectica.