28 February 2013

Around King's Cross

Another segment of the streetscape comes under development - encased in some trompe l'oeil hoardings, beneath which are signs of (temporary) structural mending -

and across the street, more demolition will no doubt happen soon -

Persian poetry at the Bodleian Library

Goatskin cover, with green background laquer, of a manuscript copied in 1569
"Love and devotion from Persia and beyond", an exhibition of manuscripts that has travelled to the Bodleian Library from the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, runs till 28th April 2013. If you can't get to Oxford, you can explore the exhibition at leisure online. A cogent, useful introduction to each section sets the scene, followed by clickable thumbnails of beautiful book pages, with descriptions that get you noticing things. And there is video and audio at www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk.
Out hunting, with a slave girl
While you're on the site, you might want to explore the other online exhibitions, for example "Treasures of the Bodleian" or "Crossing borders: Hebrew manuscripts as a meeting-place of cultures". The library has done a fabulous job of putting their exhibitions on line.
The Bodleian has a tempting bookshop, too! (image from here)
Looking for a modern persian poem, I found these poems from Iran, from which this poem by Farah Afshari comes, and also (for physical context) the photo of the persian garden -

Hand painted dreams

Alike the silence of a dream
Forgotten by dawn
Not to be remembered
but in broken pieces of no meaning...
Alike that coming moment
That brings no tomorrow
But takes away  today ...
Alike me walking behind my shadow
Leaving the dark traces of memories behind
Turning back and  nothing to see
Lost at the beginning of no-ways ahead
Searching for what might have been
What should have been in places
I have  already been
Alike me walk with me
In this grey garden of  green remembrance
Where every fallen leaf dreams of
That last unfinished  dance 
And  in the dry vain of every branch
A picture of blue sky lives
And  the sweetness of  that lost spring
That lost spring that will  never grow green
Is forever  green
Is forever  green
Walk with me in the land of hand painted dreams
I will grow  dreamlike
Dreamlike  but tall
Dreamlike  but green

Farah Afshari

Poetry Thursday - The Orange by Wendy Cope

The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange —
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled and shared it with Robert and Dave —
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

Celebrity lecture, London, 20 May

Kaffe Fassett will be speaking at the Brunei Gallery on 20 May - nearest tube Russell Square. The event is organised by London Quilters; more info is at http://www.londonquilters.org.uk/news.html.

Tickets are £10 (bookable online) and the evening includes a chance to buy fabrics and Kaffe's books.

27 February 2013

Turncloth, flipside

It is a truth universally acknowledged that anyone who has ever embroidered cannot resist turning over a piece of embroidery to see the back.

What are we looking for? (Answers on a postcard, please...)
Junko Oki (image from here)
Blue Tapestry by Stephen McClymont (image from here)
Inge Jacobsen's site shows images of the back of her thread work
Elly au Verso, by Cayce Zavaglia
The "back of the work" interests me because of its possibilities in the book format -
my double-sided stitching in books
When we turn the page of a (story) book, we expect a continuation of the narrative. When we turn the page of an "artists" book, anything could happen. We are having to construct our own story from the book, and each previous page-episode needs revision in the light of what has now come to light. Yet the back of the embroidery, its underside (and all that might mean...) is intimately linked with its "right" side. So there can be a three-way dialogue - recto, verso, reader - not to forget the role of the author...

In Christine Pereira-Adams' stitched book, the river Tigris gradually changes colour as the pages are turned - watch the video here -
"The Reading" by Christine Pereira-Adams
Another book with stitching is on Karen Rips' blog, fiberartmusings - as she says, there's lots of inspiration out there in blogland for this kind of project.

Book du jour - "Flood flowers"

Metamorphosis of "flood" books (wetted, then shaped in the drying) into "flowers".

Some wet ones were stood in puddles of ink to see how much wicking takes place -
and more were made from tissue paper (they look a bit too much like a crumpled kleenex) -
The aim is to try out all the different papers I have on hand, just to see what happens when paper is wetted and then dried. The wet paper is weaker of course, but it is maleable in different ways than when dry. And once dry again, it is a different "creature" with a different memory than, say, a sheet of paper that's been kept rolled up for a while (those rolled papers never seem to lie flat again...)

"This is where we live"

Stop-motion animation made for the 25th anniversary of Fourth Estate publishers. It features books, and characters cut from the pages - and London scenes ... charming ... watch it at http://vimeo.com/2295261

As I'm involved in an Al-Mutanabbi Street-related event next week, the role of reading and pervasiveness of reading and books in various cultures is very much on my mind. This little film is a million miles from Al-Mutanabbi Streett in many ways, including the reason for its origin - but in its integration of books into everyday life, its underlying assumption that "readerishness" permeates modern culture, it's very relevant. The scenes and activities could be, are, happening anywhere that "we" live.

26 February 2013

Blue ice

Even in the days of unheated bedrooms in the Nova Scotia winter, I loved the ice crystal patterns that formed inside windows. Somewhere in my boxes & boxes of printed photos, there are probably some photos of those patterns...

They can be much more easily found on the internet - here are a few, inspiration for hand stitch - feather stitch??
image from here

image from here

these grew in Antarctica (image from here)

If dogs could fly

... they might look exactly like Rez Dog, part of a travelling exhibition put on by the Textile Museum of Canada. In Dreamland: Textiles and the Canadian Landscape,  landmark Canadian artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collections are integrated with the work of contemporary Canadian artists, creating a dialogue of personal and cultural expressions across time and space. "

See more of John Henry Fine Day's work here. He died in 2006 at the age of 32 - way too young.

A very different work in the exhibition is by Douglas Coupland -
Coupland is better known as a novelist - his Generation X was published in 1991.

Other artists in the exhibition are Amalie Atkins, Jérôme Fortin, Grant Heaps, Jason McLean, Graeme Patterson, Ruth Scheuing, Michael Snow and Barbara Todd. Short summaries of their work in the exhibition are here.

"Historically, Canadian textiles have often taken the form of vernacular objects, whether utilitarian and domestic items or community and individual expressions of life and landscape. Dreamland foregrounds such evidence of everyday lives in the form of hooked mats, hand-pieced quilts, handmade household articles and personal objects with stories that have dynamic links to specific regions, families and individuals.

 "Interwoven with these histories, contemporary artists from across the country offer artworks that emerge from the same impulses – precise articulations of place and memory, tradition and transformation, conveyed through diverse media including textiles, video, installation, sculpture, painting and performance. "

Book du jour - "Flood library"

Trying out various types of paper for their reaction to water. I wet them, and the pages stick together - they allow themselves to be separated and twist when the hairdryer is applied. The "better" the paper, the less distortion, as you might expect.

25 February 2013

Handstitch, week 2

Using one of the "easy" stitches, we worked it to give gradations of tone. I experimented with stem stitch, one that I've never before spent long enough with to get familiar with. (Love those tight curls with the prickly bits!)

Then, a real challenge - stitching onto a very "foreign" material, acetate. It's a bit stiff and slippery, very unlike cloth, but does have potential and I plan to go back to it in the context of double-sided stitch - after all, it's all to easy to see the stitching on both sides at once! Also, it can be incised and inscribed, and then the light hits it in interesting ways -
The "finished" sample, incorporating a little bit of 3D-ness -
 Then a chance to investigate the other stitches on the handout - feather stitch, coral stitch, running stitch, fly stitched, open chain, raised chain band, satin stitch, straight stitch, and backstitch. And detached loops. We were given some words to represent visually - hidden; intense; undulating; calm; punctuated.
At home, with the radio for company, I had a go at seeding with various threads, and then moved on to satin stitch -
The thick black thread is a strip cut from old tights, which stretches to become very thin. It's a very intense black, and quite easy to stitch with -
With the blocks of straight stitch, the change of colour makes them quite compelling to do (and I like that grid structure...). There's space left on the strip for next week's stitches, and for those of you who like to see the back of the embroidery, here it is -
Not sure if I showed the back of last week's "sampler" - it has some interesting double-sided things going on -

Also I added some couching to the end of last week's work - both some squiggles of thread found lying around, and some more solid stuff. The multi-coloured patch of bokhara/roumanian couching makes a very  solid coverage - is this what Boetti's Afghan embroiderers used for their "solidly worked straight stitches with no exposed fabric"?


During my first ride on the "new bus" (which runs on route 38) I was bedizzened by the upholstery. The floor at the entrance and exit is also interestingly patterned, but there seemed to be no time for a photo while getting on and off.

The bus is fully accessible, uses green technology, has an open platform - and two staircases. Next trip: upstairs.

Spring quilt

When the call went out for photos of "spring" quilts, this probably wasn't what was meant...
"Spring is in the air" 2006 by Arnout Cosman
(And then there's this...)

24 February 2013

Oh darn!

It's not finished yet! (image from here)
Suddenly arty mending is all the rage. We are not just encouraged, but shown how, to darn our socks. Just look at all the nice weaving... what a soothing task for a lazy afternoon ...

Important tools, if you wish to try this at home, are a round-tipped needle (aka "darning needle", for the weaving) and a darning mushroom, darning egg, or old-fashioned light bulb (to stretch the afflicted garment over).

Here are some websites with instructions and encouragement:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20776/20776-h/chapter_2.html (4 types of darning)

Maybe it's the jeans that need repair. Here you will find a video about darning denim -
It's useful to have a special darning machine, of course, but you can do it on a domestic sewing machine, with a little care.

And if it's decorative darns you're after, on a damask tablecloth perhaps, why not try some pattern darning -
Made in the Netherlands in 1735; image from here

Very small

Silk gloves knitted on wires by Althea Merback (via here). She loves a challenge!

23 February 2013

Paper bags

Another example of care-ful mending (image from here) - this bag was made of washi (japanese paper) about 100 years ago and used to hold silk coccoons - read about it at shiborigirl.wordpress.com. The paper was dyed with persimmon juice, and the bag was sent back for repair as needed.

"The bird is the word"

If you were in North America in 1963, you might recognise "The bird is the word" from the song "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen (strange how these snippets pop into your head). The song, heard at a gig and riffed the next night, has an interesting history involving a plagiarism suit. It reached No.4 in the US but took 49 years to reach the UK - in an anti-X Factor campaign. Life is strange...

If you were in Canada in 1983, you might have come across this new book (the rug on the cover was made by Doukhobors) -
The photo is of a library copy, from which the following objects come.
"Birds and Flowers" by Anna Weber (1814-1888), a Mennonite woman who in later years turned her energies to making watercolours (in the Fraktur tradition) for friends
Stoneware crock, c1859-1867, Brantford, Ontario.  Stoneware manufacturing began in Brantford in 1849 ; the entrepreneur, Franklin Goold, was originally from New Hampshire
This caged bird has a touching story - it was made about 1920 in Quebec for a child with Down's syndrome by her mother.  It remained a source of simple pleasure for the rest of her life. The bird is barely 3cm long.