31 January 2016

Journal quilts - starting 2016

This year's journal quilts for CQ need to be 8"x10", portrait format, and have a little bit of fabric of a specified colour - at least 1/2" square, and purple for Jan-April, green for May-Aug, orange for Sept-Dec.

So I decided to use at least one 1/2" square bit of each colour each month.

And to stitch on paper - using cloth for the other layers. I like the resistance of paper, and the care needed in order not to get inadvertent folds or holes. And the variety of papers available.

In the "reusable paper" pile near the printer were some sheets of photocopied old sewing tools and notions - cards of buttons, fancy packets of needles. I used one of these for the January JQ, which took a couple of hours to make ... once the idea was there, and the backing fabric cut to size [for the entire year], and a selections of purples, oranges, and greens to hand.

My personal challenge is to post the month's JQ to the CQ yahoogroup files during the month - that is, not waiting till the April, August, and December deadlines. As it was the last day of the first month, the camera decided to play up - I couldn't download its photos to the computer. This definitely is going to be challenging!

Enter the ipad - hard to hold it steady to get a sharp photo, and then my white paper came out so blue when photographed in daylight, I had to move to a gloomy corner of the room, which wasn't ideal either! These four attempts have been colour corrected as much as possible; which would you choose -
The stitching, in my favourite "springy" thread, is backstitch, and there's a real pin in one area. Because the stitches loop above the paper, the direction of the light was important in order to be able to "read" the picture ... hence the various versions.
It might be interesting to scan in some more sewing things and get a series of these backgrounds. Except they're actually foregrounds, as the fabric peeks out through the holes cut in the paper.

While stitching I listened to some of the programmes in BBC radio 4's listen-again collection on painters and painting, The Aesthetic Brush (here).

What the hell's going on here?

Man and fish? Hard to tell what's going on ... here's the snippet in context -
After-dinner entertainment? That "fish" looks rather like the mouth of hell (as encountered recently in this 9th century ivory, and fabricated (in 2009) here) ... is the fellow being pushed in, or about to be rescued?

It's an example of what the Getty museum offers up weekly as a caption competition. Compare your own witty caption with others at http://thegetty.tumblr.com/post/134300296576/thycaptionbe-you-look-like-hell-you-captioned. The full story is there, too, amusingly told. (If you're on tumblr, or even if you're not, the site for past and future caption competitions is thegetty.tumblr.com

"#ThyCaptionBe is a celebration of modern interpretations of medieval aesthetics. You guess what the heck is going on, then we myth-bust." says the site. Good, old-fashioned fun!

30 January 2016

Highlight of the week

"Copying" and playing

"We learn by copying" wrote Melody Johnson of her own copy of a favourite painting (see it here), and I couldn't agree more. "Copying" is a slippery word - are we attempting to deceive with our imitation, or are we using the process to understand the original work, or perhaps to develop something we "saw" in it?

This work by El Anatsui
found on artsy.net
had me looking at it for a long time. It's made of bits of metal - tops of liquour bottles - joined with wire. It's a cloth with the three-dimensionality, the drape, of fabric; it's like an embroidered cloth, with the coloured lines and areas, a tattered, worn cloth. All the contrasts intrigued me. 

What a great source for this year's journal quilts ... but it needs a little translation out of rippling metal and into "at least two layers held together by stitch". 

I taped a large sheet of paper up onto the wall and got out coloured inks, pastels, crayons, candle, black ink. 

Not sure at what point it "went wrong" - probably at every point when I compared the developing ...thing... to the original. Or did the wrongness hit me when I got that "uh-oh, channelling Klimt" feeling. Or even earlier - using the inks on hand (bargain bottles of red, orange, yellow) rather than actually thinking about what colours to choose. Certainly, at any point when I stopped responding to what was actually there and instead let some "brilliant idea of what to do next" run away with me.

By this time, feeling "nothing to lose", I had a moment of black-ink madness on the bright column -
That tipped it over the edge.

But the three hours spent with the  ...thing...  were happy hours, enjoying using the materials and wondering about this and that (eg, what materials to use next time; what marks to make where; is this going anywhere; is it time to stop), and making decisions (for better or worse). Looking back at the El Anatsui piece, I appreciate the skill and nuance of the composition so much more.

This won't be the design basis for my journal quilts. Chopping the design up and making the quiltlets "to order", month after month, is simply too rigid - it goes against the spirit of JQs!

As for these, they're on the way to somewhere else -
What a lot of fun you can have with the leftovers ...

29 January 2016

Faraday Museum, etc

The Royal Institution -  founded in 1799 with the aim of introducing new technologies and teaching science to the general public - has a nice little museum downstairs, showing some of the new technologies over the centuries of its existence.

The museum (open 9-6 weekdays) was quiet - indeed, empty of visitors - on a Monday afternoon.

My first visit was a quick one, and so were the photos - there will be a return visit on 1 March for Drawing Tuesday.

Iconic objects, including Davy's mining lamps, Faraday's electromagnetic equipment, and William Bragg's spectrometer, can be seen here.

Upstairs in the cafe is a chandelier of instruments -
 ... and in a case along a book-lined corridor, this surgical sewing kit -

Going up (soon)

Among the week's diversions has been The Shelf Project - shelves requested from my son months ago, and he suddenly had time to cut the wood and join bits together and put up the brackets. 
Home workshop - temporary!

Workshop annex

Location of shelves, spanning unused space

Brackets in place, with two coats of paint

Final coat on final sides is finally drying
It'll be so good to (a) have the painting paraphernalia (and paint smells) out of the studio and (b) to fill those shelves with my dipped pots. 

And (c) to do yet another round of tidying, sorting, tossing. (Endless.)

28 January 2016

Poetry Thursday - Babyblues by Barbara Kingsolver

for Lily on the verge

Look at me my
dark scarlet heart disguised in pink
I am Look! At! Me!
Oh I'm the pure blue force of Want
howling through thin walls
like a prairie wind.
I am so large and empty
Why do the cheerios stick to the backs of my hands?
When I push the bear through the bars,
Why is it gone? I want that bear.
I want
Oh listen, the jingleshudder of ears getting up
the dog! Oh comecomecomecomecomecomecomecome
I want that dog.
Oh keep your pastel colours.
Boredom is a purple need. Hunger is vermillion.
I want my dark blue heaven milk mothermother
but the minute I fall into darkness she puts me down.
They do, they put you down. The big ones
only want one thing: to leave you alone.
You have to stay awake, see.
The big ones are my shepherd and I shall want
with the pure blue force
of a howling wind I want
the dog the bear the milk I want
every cheerio that fell on the floor I want
the brightest colours
all pressed hard against my gums
I want
the world
and it will not fit
in my mouth.

-- Barbara Kingsolver (from Another America, 1992)

(With thanks to Kathy Loomis, guest curator, who found a copy of the poem while cleaning her studio; it was once read to a calligraphy class by the teacher, and she'd held on to it ever since. So it should be with favourite oems - turning up at odd moments.)

Barbara Kingsolver (b.1955) is better known as a novelist (The Poisonwood Bible; The Lacuna; etc). She writes about how poems happen here. She says, "I rarely think of poetry as something I make happen - it is more accurate to say that it happens to me. Like a summer storm, a house afire, or the coincidence of both on the same day. Like a car wreck, only with more illuminating results. I've overheard poems, virtually complete, in elevators and restaurants where I was minding my own business. When a poem does arrive, I gasp as if an apple had fallen into my hand, and give thanks for the luck involved. Poems are everywhere, but easy to miss."

27 January 2016

Caution - bananas!

Or rather ... wet floor. Don't slip!

Up Brick Lane

Brick Lane (east London) has changed so much in recent years - from Indian restaurants, especially Balti houses, everywhere, to trendy shops and coffee bars everywhere. Since the 1980s, when I worked not too far away, I haven't been a regular visitor, and can't say I've been "shocked" at the transformation - it always has felt like another world, one of anthropological or fantastic (ie, related to fantasy) interest. Poking the camera through doors and windows caught some things changed and some about to change.
Soon to be a coffee bar?

From pub to coffee bar to impending dereliction

Indian fabric store from "the old days"

Gentrified and restored houses from the very old days

A mixture of Indian lamp posts and London xmas lights

Semi-exotic grocery store

Friendly barber

Some small leftovers; some big street art

Chocolate shops are taking over!

Ah, the Old Truman Brewery - unrecognisable now

A downtrodden history?


Joining up the backs of things



More "stuff"

Intersection ... or collision?

Old windows, new shops

The two beigel/bagel shops at the top of Brick Lane

Ripe for redevelopment ...

... but even the scaffolding looks old and sad

In 2010 this wall had a notice about a lost budgie

Kingsland Road - more old buildings with new shops

Destination: Geffrye Museum

26 January 2016

Drawing Tuesday - Europe 1600-1815 at V&A

Though the ornamentation may look elaborate, the gallery has much of interest. I settled down in front of a case holding domestic items from the Dutch golden age - the 17th century.
A linen press; you can see a bit of the curfew next to it

Ornamentation on the brass of the curfew

Venus and Cupid on a warming pan (note the snail in the upper left,
its companion gone missing

A foot warmer - a ceramic bowl holding glowing coals was put inside

A set of tiles, 1610-40, on which the animals seem to wear little knitted jackets
The textile details were interesting -
Drawn thread work, bobbin lace, and the red stitches denoting ownership of a large linen sheet

Amsterdam Town Hall, then the 8th wonder of the world, woven into a damask towel

Lace on a ladies' collar
 Grander things were within view - these worthies, for instance (keep the terracotta cardinal in mind) -

Buttonholes stitched into marble, marvellous
 Everyone chose a page of their morning's work for photography -
Jo's terracotta cardinal

Janet K's Norwegian ale bowl

Sue M's Norwegian powder flask

Sue S's ironwork from a gondola

One of three view of "the horse" by Janet B
Marina's crossbows

Mags' drinking vessels

Carol's jacket, and some silk lining
 I produced a total of three pages -
Three (charcoal pencil) views of the linen press
Getting to grips with the patterning on the curfew
(a metal cover for the fire overnight ('couvre feu'), to keep the
 embers glowing ready for morning; another such is shown here)
The animals from the set of tiles
 Some items were obviously very appealing, as they showed up in several sketchbooks -

 Tool of the week - Carol's favourite pen -
And another sketching stool, which folds into a compact bag, but is only about 40cm high -