26 April 2015

Second thoughts on journal quilts

My first thought was to make a frieze, month by month, carrying one or two elements forward onto the next JQ - here are the early plans, which included printing and stamping -
By the time three were ready and one halfway there, I was getting frustrated, not really sure where the frieze idea was going. And doesn't the shiny fabric make them difficult to photograph!

Along came "the wrinkly pieces", an offshoot of preparing organza to be dipped in porcelain slip. So I started a second series.  

Days before the deadline for posting the quilts on the JQ yahoo group, I have the first four ready; they are definitely not a frieze, and don't really "journal" anything ... but they have been a chance to try out a few variations of a new technique -

The individual "wrinkly pieces" are mounted on stiff interfacing and backed by black fabric with a torn edge. Usually torn edges give me the heebie-jeebies, but both the organza and the backing has been torn, and I'm managing to cope with all those frayed bits - perhaps it's the subversive thrill of tearing the fabric, something that would never get past the Quilt Police!

The middle layer is cut slightly smaller than the backing, which is 6"x12". Sometimes the ruched organza ends up a teeny bit smaller than it should be, and the edges of the interfacing need a touch of colour (dilute acrylic paint, usually) to prevent a stark line.

They started from the flat pieces made for dipping in ceramics class, which included metallic fabric and threads to get dark areas in the finished, fired work -

which evolved into a lot of stitching on synthetic organza -
This became "February"
Used in "March", along with a central section embellished with beads
The threads are pulled up tight and the bundle is put in the steamer -
After the threads are released, the fabric is "simply" sewn onto the backing.
What are these JQs about?
The joy of stitching, mainly. There are probably 4000 stitches in each JQ, but it's running stitch and goes quickly. The small pieces are easy to handle, and carry around, so I stitch while on public transport (seating permitting), or while listening to the radio. Pure pleasure, as is choosing the colour combinations.
Where are they going?
These were made in rather a hurry and all in a bunch, so there hasn't been a chance for reflection or for development. At the start I had planned to add beads, as in one ceramic piece where they melted into flashes of colour, but this seems unnecessary when the threads themselves can have such interesting textures. Using compatible fabrics as blocks of appliqué, or joining fabrics before stitching, seem a simpler way to get variety or start to move toward "something" as yet undefined. 
How are they made?
I choose colour of fabric [will steer away from the very dark ones in future!], any bits for "applique", and the sequence of colours for the thread. Stitch length, and the relation of stitches to each other (random or aligned) is a last-minute decision. After stitching, the threads are drawn up and wrapped around the piece, which is steamed for half an hour, then unwrapped carefully and stretched out to the required length. The thread ends are stitched into the middle layer, catching down some of the fabric. Finally the backing is hand stitched round the edge.
The firmness of the pleats gives a lovely bounce to the surface!

25 April 2015

Next bit of stitching

I'm excited about the colours, especially the neon orange!

Squaring up photos in Photoshop

These instructions are for Photoshop CS4. I usually straighten photos "by eye", but there's a more accurate (and probably faster!) way of doing it, by using the Grid. 

The photo was taken in haste, and it turns out that the camera was not only tilted but not quite parallel with the wall that the picutre was hanging on. (It saves a lot of editing time if the photo is taken properly in the first place!)
A wonky photo 
To activate the Grid, go to View and check that Extras is checked -

Then go to Show and check that Grid is checked -

You can toggle the grid on and off with the keystroke Control+H.

To select the photo and get the "handles" for distorting it, use the keystrokes Control+A (select all) and Control+T (free transform).

If you're not comfortable with keystrokes, you can find Select All in the Select menu, and Free Transform in the Edit menu. (If you need to do a lot of straightening photos, it will save a lot of time to get used to the keystrokes!)

Ready to transform/distort

The "handles" are the little squares in the corners and centre -

To use the handles, hold down the Control key (not doing so will stretch the image), put the cursor on one of the handles, click the mouse, and move the mouse till the lines in the photo align with the lines in the grid -
That gets the vertical line on the right lined up, but it moves the line on the left slightly to the left - so another correction is necessary -
Note that these adjustments have lengthened the photo and thus changed the proportions of the area of interest - it could have been avoided by moving the handle to the left instead of downward.

Use the handle at bottom centre to get the "picture" back to the original proportions -
Now you can crop to get rid of the white areas -
The grid is useful for making the border symmetrical.

Control-H to turn off the grid, and it's done -

24 April 2015

Front and back

Lately I've been ruching up a lot of fabric, with a view to using it in journal quilts. This is an offshoot of the ceramics made from slip-dipped fabric, as the fabric is gathered up and the folds set by steaming to help hold the shape during dipping. I dipped some flat pieces, and then realised that the ruched, steamed fabrics themselves were ... or could be ... interesting. 

At first I used plain fabric with various threads to add interest - but why not use printed fabric? This snippet, about 6cm high, was screenprinted at college a few years back, and I wanted to keep the print showing (sort of like veins on the back of a hand) -
It looks fairly hideous and was even worse before gathering, but hey it's a sample - and might get painted with gesso, who knows?

Turning it over is a different story - the (rayon) thread has looped in the areas where the stitches are large -
Perhaps this is the "right" side.

Road works

The dip in the road just outside the house, which causes the house to shake alarmingly when heavy vehicles go over it at speed (especially buses, late at night and early in the morning) has had many temporary repairs, and finally various sections of the road, including "mine", have been properly done. It's been interesting....
Day 1 - surface removal
The culprit - a pipe that prevents a thorough treatment of the roadbed
First layer - gravel
Exciting moment - airborne delivery of roller
Cement is down, ready for tarmac
Add your own caption
How many men does it take to spread some tarmac?
Next layer
Four days later - all done! 

23 April 2015

Poetry Thursday - Bertolt Brecht, on acting

"permitting the spectator / to experience this Now on many levels" (via)

So you should simply make the instant
Stand out, without in process hiding
What you are making it stand out from,
  Give your acting
That progression of one-thing-after-another,
  that attitude of
Working up what you have taken on. In this way
You will show the flow of events and also the course
Of your work, permitting the spectator
To experience this Now on many levels, coming from
  Previously and
Merging into Afterwards, also having much else Now
Alongside it. He is sitting not only
In your theatre but also
In the world.

-- Bertolt Brecht, from "Portrayal of past and present in one", part of Four Theatre Poems (in Poems, 1913-56)

"What Bertolt Brecht wrote about acting in one of his poems is applicable to such a practice [putting a photograph back into the context of experience, social experience, social memory]. For instant one can read photography, for acting the re-creating of context" wrote John Berger in his 1978 essay, Uses of Photography, where this section of the poem is quoted. Undoubtedly instant and acting can be replaced by words relating to any art form; the "attitude of working up what you have taken on" is the process of making any form of art.

The poem is a reminder of that important question in making art: "Who is your audience?" and a spur to considering what the audience/spectator/viewer will bring to the work to "complete" it.

22 April 2015

Nine realms of Norse mythology

"Magicking the Norse World to Life: 42 Poets & Artists, 3 Musicians & a Viking boat!"

The campaign, which runs for 28 more days at time of writing, is to fund the commissioning of a boat and lots of poetry, art, and music - and take it on tour, especially to schools. It's got academic as well as artistic credentials - overviews of each realm with be given by a Norse PhD student at Cambridge.

"From today [20 April], for the next 30 days, woodcarver Mark Crowley will be LIVE CARVING a Viking boat made from mahogany and oak, which will act as the focal point and heart of a 5-day Norse-inspired Interactive Combined Arts experience to be held between 11th-15th September 2015 in Hanse House, King's Lynn, Norfolk, UK. Our project is a continuation of the '2015 Year of the Hanse' celebrations and the National Heritage Open Day in Norfolk and England. It is our intention to take the whole experience (and the boat) on tour: locally, nationally and internationally.

"Bringing to life the 9 realms of Norse mythology, The Nine Realms pulls together 45 talented creatives from around the UK and the world who have worked together online for over 9 months celebrating the myths, characters and stories from the 13th century Icelandic Norse Sagas through poetry, writing, art and music."

Photos via the Norse Mythology site
Good stuff, and what gives the campaign that extra touch is the levels of funding, which correspond to the 9 realms, from Asgard at £3 through to Alfheim at £60. How to choose the level of funding? by the perks, or by how much the realm appeals to you? For instance, Alfheim is the home of the Light Elves, beautiful creatures, "guardian angels", minor gods of nature and fertility that can help or hinder humans with their knowledge of magical powers and deliver an inspiration to art and music. 

Or Vanaheim, home of the old gods, masters of sorcery, known for their ability to predict the future?

Or Niflheim, the first of the nine worlds, with its "bubbling, boiling spring" protected by a dragon?

Sketching at Ally Pally

Alexandra Palace has a fabulous view and a palm court, complete with sphinxes - so even if it had been raining, we would have had plenty to draw.
The view (via)
The Palm Court (via)
I'd been looking forward to the vegetation, but the piped music (from the cafe/bar) drove me out into the sunshine, looking for "something" ...
Glimpse of an architectural view 

Could be interesting...

More fractured patterns
One criterion was to be able to sit somewhere, another was to be out of the wind, and finally I settled down to try the criss-crossing on the historic aerial, or rather, the bristly aerial that's in a historic place, the site of the first television transmission in the UK -
Looking up and looking down repeatedly, I soon felt the aerial was about to topple. Or is it an optical illusion?
The interlaced geometry of pylons is intriguing - might be my starting point for the Structures quilt challenge later this year (so many possibilities with that one!). The lion's head, of which there are many around the building, was a prelude to going to draw the Assyrian lion hunt the next day. Here's what they really look like -
On the way back to the Palm Court, convenient seating enabled an attempt to capture this -
The angles of the glass and the spacing of the girders was minutely, intensely frustrating ... and based on an entirely wrong angle: it tilts! How could I not have noticed that!
The medium is soluble graphite, but no solubility took place in this instance, just a lot of erasing. Lots of valuable lessons here, so instead of tearing out the page or whatever, it'll stay ... and the first thing I'll rework is those windows on the left: they tilt! How could I not have noticed that!

What joy to go inside and draw leaves -

And to see what others in the group had done -
On the way home, a visit to the garden centre, where the groupings of pots called to my pencil -
But it stayed in the bag. Something for another day?