31 December 2014

Quilting in 2014

These journal quilts, 8" square, are the sum total of my quilting in the past year - the "High Horizons" series. It's been a quietly un-quilty time ... a year more of writing and drawing (and getting back to reading) than of stitching, be it quilting or embroidery. Next year CQ has some other interesting challenges (details in the January issue of the newsletter, which is currently still at the printers, sorry about that) and I have a few ideas for those....

Thinking about the reluctance to start any new textile pieces - partly it's a complete lack of excitement at the prospect ... call it the lack of An Idea ... and partly it's the confusion of finding the fabrics among the various boxes they've been "sorted" into. Handling the fabric isn't kick-starting the process of generating ideas, not at the moment, not the way it used to. I'd rather be making long lines of running stitch ... but for what "purpose"?

This is recognisable as a fallow period. It's often cyclical - one morning you wake up knowing what to do and where to find the fabric, and that's wonderful ... but unpredictable.

Meanwhile there's knitting, and darning, and revisiting and sorting old photos, and cooking, and - very important - getting out into the world and opening your eyes to things, meeting friends and going to see art (or wander round nice shops). The last day of this old year has seen blue skies in London, always a welcome sight. Next year, tomorrow, anything could happen,...

Christine has reminded me that these JQs are not the only quilts I made in 2014 - what about the Dislocation quilt? Ah yes ... how could I have forgotten that...! Maybe because it felt more like a painting than a quilt?

In 2014 I challenged myself with several things - the portraiture course; tap dancing; daily painting; weekly drawing; a first stab at studio reduction. All very stretching, "rather good for one". Some, I'll get back to - they seem less terrifying, less impossible, than they once did!

Blast from the past - landscapes, pre-2009

Little stitchy landscapes, embroidered with great pleasure, silk threads on an even-weave hessian. It's good to have photos of all these old projects - but what to do with them, when they turn up again in the next rummage-rampage through the back shelves of the studio?

30 December 2014

Eye clock

Funky clock, and the fuzzy photo kinda fits the "better vision" theme - it was taken while driving past in 2009 on our xmas day outing to the seaside ... but that's another story....

"Moorfields Eye Hospital
Deeply cool. This clock is shaped like an eye, at an eye hospital. It’s so apt! Commissioned in 1999 to mark the Queen’s visit to the hospital, which goes to show that there are some good reasons for retaining the monarchy." (via)

29 December 2014

Year-end findings

At the end of the year I like to do a clear-up, to start off the new year on the right foot, tidy and fresh. As you tidy up, you find little scraps of things that you don't want to throw away "just yet" - like these -
Taking them left to right ...

Emily Jo Gibbs had an exhibition of her work at Craft Central in October - beautiful stitchery. She now does portraits and still life
but you might remember her amazing handbags from years past -
Photos are from her website; see more of her work there.

The tiny card is by Alice Fox - it seems to show stitches arising from ceramic -
I'm looking forward to a ceramics course next term, and this will make an excellent starting point for developing "something".

Another tiny card, this time by Janet Bolton, whose work I've always enjoyed for its liveliness and complex simplicity -
She has an exhibition coming to Cowslip Workshops in June, and teaches at West Dean as well as giving workshops and slide lectures.

Rachel Fenner is an environmental artist/sculptor; the oil painting "Channel" is from an exhibition in 2005, and I love the waves and wind, light and dark, changing weather and viewpoints in it -

"Lungs" by Robin Blackledge was shown at the Wellcome Collection some years ago -
In a talk about his work he said: "My interest in healthcare lies within the opportunity to effect positive change in the built environment. My early work in performance, I believe, shapes how I view public buildings, their daily cycles, and the myriad of roles played out within by the staff and users. As an artist working on these environments, one has to be aware of what is expected of you, and act accordingly. In projects where lead artist roles are required to develop an art and design strategy within new build or large refurbishment projects, this role is pre-defined, and the artist takes on more of a consultancy role and is usually a member of a core design team. In later years I ventured into 'Public, digital and interactive art' and now have made a body of art & design work which has been made calling upon skills & experience gained in various methods of art production."

Which is all very interesting, but I've kept the little picture because it reminds me of some pre-digital photos taken early in spring in Epping Forest, the trees just in bud, looking up at "rivers of sky" between them. A breathing space between the branches.

The small paintings by Gro Thorsen , exhibited in 2009, are some of the 366 called "Seasons" - each is 6cm x 6cm. You would be drawn in close to see the details - and yet the views are of things seen from a distance.

Finally, "Another Perspective" by Lindsay Madden, advertising the ING Discerning Eye exhibition last November, which I forgot to go see....
Painting on those old rulers ... a theme of children growing up, parents watching their children growing up. Lindsay says: "Objects associated with childhood communicate the longing to hold on to the past, while the combination of chalk and paint acknowledge the ephemeral nature of youth. My latest body of work comments on our experiences of school, the notion of continual measurement – physically, mentally, academically, against peers, conformity, uniformity, isolation, insecurities and freedom." Lindsay also has a set of works on chalkboards.

And now for something different, also a "found object" - some abandoned mending has resurfaced -
Rescuing socks that are wearing thin, giving them a few more years of life, may seem like a waste of time and effort, but it's a way to be stitching when "nothing more creative" is going on. I love to sit in the studio, catching up with the radio, stitching on "something" - and colourful darning fills the bill. (Who knows where it might lead?) The secret is to do the darning before the hole appears - holes are trickier than thin fabric - and to darn from the wrong side.

28 December 2014

Genetic slippage

SNPs - single neuclotide polymorphisms, pronounced "snips" - are the most common genetic variation. They are very small - replacing a single "letter" in DNA - and quite common, occuring about once every 300 neuclotides, which means there are about 10 million in the human genome. If written language had so many letters out of place, would we be able to understand it?

Most SNPs have no effect on health or development. Many typos in printed language have no effect on comprehension. A SNP in or close to a gene can affect its function; a slip in a word ... well, see for yourself - here are Jane Lackey's examples, printed on the book cover:

(Seen at the Wellcome Collection, November 2012.)
Other works in the series (via)

25 December 2014

A matter of taste

The caption for the Guardian's centrefold read: "Kany, Gyazi and Dozer, southern white rhinos at Chessington World of Adventures Resort, tuck into a festive meal of brussels sprouts. Zookeepers say they welcome donations of unwanted sprouts."

And many children would be only too happy to send their sprouts to the rhinos...

Happy Christmas!

This might give you ideas for next year - a portrait of your house in decorated gingerbread? (This one was made and displayed at the Estorick Collection's cafe.)

But these guys have all flown home to Santa's stable -

24 December 2014

Christmas on Stroud Green Road

Sounds of the season - Jingle Bells and The Snowman especially - drifting into the clear air and right through my double glazing -

Ah, it's all for a good cause...

23 December 2014

Tuesday is drawing day - medieval gallery at the V&A

What treasures there! A person could be very happily drawing any of them. The first thing that caught my eye were these carvings of St Catherine of Alexandria and St Barbara (it must have been the gold) -
and after a moment you notice the man ... "I have no idea what that man is doing under my skirt," said St Barbara ... though perhaps she's crushing her infidel father. She is meant to protect people from sudden death, and is the patron saint of, among others, miners and mathematicians. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder.

Next to these gilded wood carvings were another St Barbara, and my object of choice, St Anne holding the Virgin and Child. These three have been painted by Leonardo (1499) and Masaccio (1424), Two of the three are the fruit of immaculate conception. St Anne was Mary's mother; the question is, why is she holding a book? Anne is the patron saint of infertile and pregnant women; the grouping (known as Anna Selbdritt in Germany) celebrates the virtues of motherhood and female domesticity.

The carving comes from Mechelen, Belgium, made 1500-1520. In addition to this carving, in a different configuration, and several others, the V&A has yet another carving of the trio, sitting under a canopy, made in the 1520s; the notes for it say: "The earliest examples of this composition date from the late 1400s. Most of the surviving pieces were made in the 15th and 16th centuries. These three-figure groups were made as a single religious image. From the 1400s onwards the group was often part of a larger composition known as the Holy Kindred or 'Heilige Maagschap' .This showed St Anne as a young woman with the Virgin and Christ Child. It also included St Anne's three husbands, and her three daughters with their husbands and children."

I couldn't resist adding just a bit of colour -
On the way to the cafe we encountered a carol concert - the choir in the gallery in front of the Hereford Screen -
a sizeable crowd gathering to listen - it was lovely! In the middle of the dazzling sunlight, you might just be able to make out the museum's ultramodern xmas tree -
After coffee, a revisiting of the objects from our sketchbooks, and a search for information on other seen in passing - for instance the "inhabited vine scroll" -
My second chosen object was a stall end made in King's Lynn about 1419; at the time the city was a major port. The museum has two stall parts from St Nicholas Chapel there -

The carving has a gamut of celestial phenomena - moon, stars, clouds, sun ... and a strange shape below the sun. What look like raised bands for the waves are actually troughs, carved into the wood. It's hard to see the fish properly, as there's a low railing at some distance from the wall.

Mike drew our attention to the Luck of Edenhall, a famous glass with a good legend attached.
The glass was made in Syria in the middle of the 14th century, and the case was made in France in the 15th century. Its survival is thought to be due in part to the Christian IHS initials on the case, sparing it from destruction as an "infidel" object. The glass eventually descended into the possession of the Musgrave family, of Edenhall in Cumberland, England, and gained a reputation as a fairy cup, left behind by fairies who, it was said, had been disturbed while drinking at St Cuthbert's Well in the Garden of Edenhall: "being interrupted by the intrusion of some curious people, they were frightened, and made a hasty retreat, and left the cup in question: one of the last screaming out, 'If this cup should break or fall, Farewell the Luck of Edenhall.' "

Jo was intrigued by this elephant candlestick -
which is a lot easier to see on a bright screen than in the lowered lighting of the gallery.

From the V&A's description: "This candlestick highlights a fashion in the 12th and 13th centuries for designs of beasts and monsters on domestic objects. The Elephant and Castle represented here was an exotic motif inspired by the use of elephants in Eastern warfare. Towers were placed upon the backs of the elephants from which soldiers could fire arrows or throw missiles. Elephants were a source of great fascination in medieval Europe because they were little known. In England only the King owned an elephant in his menagerie at the Tower of London."

Looking ahead
Some desirable objects for "next time" at the V&A - in the medieval gallery, this column -
In the cast courts, this screen has enticing ribbons and punctured leaves (bottom right) -
 An "austere jar" in the Korean display, made 100-500, before the introduction of glazing - it has lovely incised marks and a jaunty angle -
But first I'd like to take forward some of the images from recent weeks; museum sessions resume on 6 January, but there are two Tuesdays in between, for drawing in the studio.

Will it be done in time?

Drawing on decades of knitting experience, I made up my own pattern, with measurements adapted from an existing jumper. The tricky bit is shaping the neck - and that's done - so it "merely" needs putting together and knitting the neckband. 

22 December 2014

Viennese crescents, Vanillehoernchen, Kipferl ...

... they may have other names as well. Around our house they are THE Christmas cookie. The recipe is given in American cups (8 fluid ounces).

1 cup butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup ground almonds (a 150-gram packet)
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Mix the ingredients, adding them in order and blending well each time.

Roll small balls of the dough between your hands and shape into crescents. Put on baking trays and into a preheated 180C oven for about 30 minutes, till they are slightly brown.

Let cool, then roll in icing sugar. Makes about 4 dozen, depending on size.

21 December 2014

Background to grids

Aspects of past work that feed into the "grids" idea
Irregular grids of city maps
and by extension, maps of museums with their structure of rooms
Are portolan charts grids?

Gridded pseudo-maps, reminiscent of kuba cloth patterns

gridded book pages

gridded quilting
Images found on the internet that feed into my gridded, structural thinking -
Karen Goetzinger (via)
Gridded facade of the Bodleian Library (via)
A grid by Gego (via)
source lost, but isn't it a wonderful structure?

a multiplicity of shapes within the gridded roof of the Great Court at the British Museum

Gridded drawings by Clare Smith - see more here

Deleuze conceives of the grid as territorialised "State Space", inside which movement becomes fixed and tribal. Hmm ... how to break that fixity, disorganise things a bit?