A Lovely Bit of Alice

We had a bit of a day out last week – the first for ages as we’ve been hard at work on the WOWbook. It was great to be out in the world again, particularly as we went to see Alice Kettle’s ‘Thread Bearing Witness’ at the Winchester Discovery Centre. This is the first venue for the touring exhibition which will conclude in the Autumn at the Whitworth in Manchester.

The exhibition is quite breathtaking as many of the works are huge and you feel as though you are walking with giants when you enter the gallery. I love Alice’s work and many of these pieces were made especially for this show. Working around the space, I will try to describe some of the pieces.

The Dog Loukanikos and the Cat’s Cradle 

Here we have three girls playing cat’s cradle with a golden thread. Loukanikos was a real dog who was a symbol in the Greek anti-austerity riots of 2010. He is shown here defending the girls from the riot police who are also tied with a gold thread.  The glass ‘hedge’ in the foreground is made by Kirsteen Aubrey and acts as an intriguing barrier – perhaps another level of protection.

 

Sea 792 x 284 cms

This is a massive piece of work. Alice has often produced very large and monumental textiles and this must be one of the biggest. It is a reaction to the refugee crisis, tempered by the glare of publicity from the media, conversations with her daughter Tamsin and, later, first-hand meetings with refugees, especially women artists among them. This is the first of a series which, if I understand correctly, will have work added as the exhibition tours. Alice aims to give a voice to the refugees and to capture the feelings of a (once strong) community now reduced to helplessness.

 

 

Orphrey 200 x 245 cms

This piece was made, using a Schiffli commercial embroidery machine, for the exhibition Mechanical Drawing – The Schiffli Project. As we know from our domestic machines, the automatic patterns can look very ‘static’ and the aim of this project was to show how they could be used in a different way. By changing threads, varying the thickness and generally causing stitching havoc, Alice showed how this could be done. The large figures also work well in this respect. Although shown only in outline, they provide an intriguing contrast to the deconstructed patterns.  Alice herself feels that this was a turning point at which she realised that she no longer had to cover the base fabric with her trade-mark heavy stitching. She described it as ’letting the marks breathe and liberating the fabric’.

 

Odyssey detail

This piece provided a reminder of the contrast between the massively stitched works that have been ‘Alice trademarks’ and the new, more open, pieces. I have always loved the fact that this is based on the story of how Penelope, waiting for the return of Odysseus puts, off her suitors by weaving his shroud. Having vowed not to wed until it was finished, she unpicked it at dead of night. Good use of a textile technique, I say.

This is a lovely exhibition. If I am right in my assumption that it will grow before its final showing in October, I think I might be having a little trip to Manchester to see the final pieces.

 

 

Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I popped into Marks and Spencer while we were in Winchester and found that there was a sale going on. As I said to the checkout lady while I filled four bags with sales purchases, ‘I only came in for some socks!’

Coming right back to earth I must remind you that we have free tickets for the Craft4Crafters show at Westpoint Arena, Exeter in February. Go to the d4daisy facebook page to enter.

Memory Gathering

First of all – Happy New Year everyone. A little late but well meant.  Had a great Christmas – best day was the family get-together on Boxing Day when we all gathered and played silly games, including a hilarious version of charades. Granddaughter Sophie put together some great quizzes, so the brain was given a bit of exercise, too. Sad to say we forgot all about the specially purchased game which involved Stuffing a Turkey using a ping pong ball resembling a sprout. This was propelled by a party blower. Where you had to aim for I leave to your imagination.

Clive gave me some QOR watercolours which I had long lusted after. They give very strong colour and are especially good when painted over a damp surface where they mingle beautifully.  I have been using them for the colour section of the ongoing course I will be running on the WoWbook site. We are beginning with a look at colour manipulation and I have some good fun ways of playing with this and turning it into resolved pieces. Keep an eye on the Facebook page, WOWies, as I will be letting you know about the requirements early next week.

 

I am currently working on a small piece for the Gathering Memories project. This is a community project which aims to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society. They sell small Project Kits allowing the purchaser to create their own interpretation of memories through the medium of textiles and mixed media. Kit contains a tea dyed silk strand taken from an original installation work, together with backing cloth, Bondaweb, iron-on Vilene, a selection of beads, threads and a needle.

 

There are sufficient materials for an A5 piece of textile art based on your own memories. You can just make one for yourself or you can donate it for an auction to be her later in the year. Lots of great artists have taken part and you can see work by Anne Kelly and Stephanie Redfern here. Much of the work will be exhibited at the Brockenhurst Needlework Fiesta this year (21st and 22nd April). We will have a stand too and it really is a super show with lots of demos and all the big traders (including Art Van Go). Well worth a visit. Find out more at www.brockenhurstfiesta.co.uk

 

 

 

I am basing my offering on a larger piece I made using techniques from my Tall Tales and Long Diaries book (d4daisy.com). My granddad was an officer in the Royal Navy and kept a diary all through the first world war. I scanned some of the pages and also made some ‘vintage’ pieces of stitching for the work. It’s a very personal piece and I plan to make copies for my cousins. I shall take a photo of it to print on A4 cotton and add more stitching. Come to think of it, that would make a great starting point for my piece for the auction.  This is such a great way to raise money for an excellent cause.

  

 

Christmas Scenes

Well – here we go again and, before we all disappear into a pile of wrapping paper, we‘d like to send good wishes for a very Happy Christmas from all at d4daisy. Here is our Christmas scene – it’s made with a similar technique to the gesso and ink video on the WOWbook members’ page. I laid a thin base layer of gesso on very heavy watercolour paper, sprayed it with very dilute Quink ink and let it dry. Then layers of gesso were applied with a palette knife to make mountains. A little salt was sprinkled here and there and more ink was sprayed on the lower half. The salt pulled the ink and made darker areas. No stitching but I was pleased with it.

 

I paid a visit to my old blog magstitch.blogspot.com. Someone remembered the mad time we had putting catalogues out to weather and then using them for art – such fun. While I was there, I happened upon this little design exercise for anyone using an image program with a layer function. It is quite easy. I use an old version of Paint Shop Pro but it worked well on my up to date Photoshop Elements, too. It’s another one that is good for Christmas images. In the pic below, I have printed it on ordinary printer paper, crumpled it up to soften it and then pinned it onto felt, ready to stitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This started off as a simple quick photo of a birch tree.

We have been discussing stitching with birch bark on the members’ Facebook page so this seems very appropriate.

There need to be some good contrast in the pic for this to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find your Layers menu, usually at the top,  and click Duplicate twice.

 

 

On the Layers Palette select the middle layer. See below.

 

Then , in the image menu, click Negative. See below. This affects the middle layer, as you can see in the palette in the pic below. Your image won’t show it yet.

 

Click on the TOP LAYER. This is important.

Somewhere in your Layer Palette there will be an option called Modes, often next to the fade option. See below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This brings up a menu with lots of things to try. When you have a spare year in your life, play with these but for now just choose the one marked Difference

The result can be seen at the bottom.

 

Brief Thoughts on Christmas Cards

It’s so lovely to receive hand-made cards but I always seem to be too busy to make them. Apart from one glorious year (when I was clearing old stocks of ‘Silly Bird’ cards and sent them to all my stitchy friends), I hardly ever manage to make cards. Next year perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was the the year when we moved to our current address. As we moved just before Christmas, there was even less chance of anyone receiving a Christmas offering. However, it was a very snowy Christmas that year and we made full use of the fact that we had a post box opposite. Unable to persuade a friendly robin to oblige, we took one of our wooden bird ornaments over and made do with a photo of that on our cards. The neighbours were thus convinced very early on that the new folk at number 96 were a little weird but our friends loved the cards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stitching group, Beyond Stitch (we have now gone so far beyond stitch that we mostly just talk), always make just one card each and these are placed into a box and we each take one. This means that we only make one card and they are always a delight to receive. The one below was made by my friend Sandy and very glam it is.

 

My card was based on a technique that I used in the WOWbook article. I overlaid a base drawing of leaves and flowers (a bit of stamped lettering added interest) with a lightweight tissue version of the same thing which I then worked into with watercolours.  A touch of hand stitching and a wired cut-out of a smaller flower was a good finishing touch. I enjoyed making that – might get into flower and leaf painting in the New Year.

The WoWbook is going great guns – I think it will be out best selling book ever. Many thanks to those who have purchased it and joined the Members’ club. It’s been great meeting you in the facebook group.

 

The WOWbook is born

The new version of Workshop on the Web is here at last – the book is ready and the members’ club on the WOWbook site (www.wowbook.d4daisy.com)  has its doors wide open. It seems to have had a very long gestation period – how long is it for elephants? We all feel that it has been so well worth it – the book is great and the site is looking good, too.  I would like to say a big thank you to all our artists in the book and in the members’ club (you will all love Sherrill Kahn’s article here). The chance to have videos to expand the techniques in the book is a whole new series of opportunities.

In the book, I think we chose the contributors well and all the sections have something different to offer. Hilary Beattie writes as only Hilary can – so much information, delivered in such a generous fashion. Laura Edgar covers both hand and machine stitching and lots of it without buying expensive materials. Caroline Bell demystifies eco-dyeing and I love the results on paper, wonderful when combined with simple stitch. Amo House gives a concise article on water-solubles of all sorts – and there is this Maggie Grey person who has had great fun with a vessel (there will be more on the latest version of this in future blogs). To pick one article in a random fashion to demonstrate that there are so many alternative avenues to explore: Angie Hughes covers everything from transfer painting to glitzy fabric shedding – with a side trip through machined cords that is worth an article on it’s own. In the pic below you can see her machining her transfer dyed felt.

 

Then there is the lovely effect of the shredded organza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a detail of one of the cords. That is just one of the sections – so many ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am already preparing the course that I will be running in the members’ club. This will carry on through subsequent books and I expect to post two or more sections for each book. It seems the ideal way to run a course – I will be able to take time with it and I hope everyone will join in, showing results and experiments on the Members’ Facebook site.

See you in the members’ club when you get the password , which is contained in the WOWbook.

End of Era

Or should that be beginning of an era? I can’t believe that we are saying farewell to Workshop on the Web and hello to the WOWbook. We started WoW so many years ago and I am so chuffed that so many of our original WoWies are still with us. I do have to say that big hugs and thanks are due to Sam Packer, Amo House and most of all Fiona Edwards because without their help it would have disappeared long ago. I have been looking through the back issues and there are so many highlights. Here are a few from recent issues:

Isobel Moore caught everyone’s imagination with her spirals in March this year. She also has a piece of work in the Gallery  on this site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In March 2015 Ann Small wrote about the bone people. I really wanted to try this but a serious incident was narrowly avoided when Smudge found my boiled bones. Luckily I caught him in time. Still love these figures though.

I have written so many articles over the years but the last one, playing with shadow work using stencils and Lutradur, is one of my favourites and I am still exploring these techniques – now using my die cutter for the shapes. At the time, Fiona and I were trying to finish the final issue of WoW, building up the new website and finishing off the book. I think we both had serious doubts about our ability to get it all together.

 

I expect I will be writing another article on the ‘trapping’ technique for one of the online workshops in the new members’ club

 

I was very taken with this article by Sarah Waters and I did make a collar, which I liked. I used the embellisher machine to add a bit of decoration and one day, when I find it in the workroom (terrible mess), I will show you.

 

So many workshops – so many techniques. So many more yet to be explored with the new venture – very, very soon.

….and on a personal note

I have received a request for a photo of Smudge – star of so many of my blog posts in times gone by. Smudge and I considered the request and he agreed, as long as it was an action shot. As this is the closest he gets to action (note the tongue having a workout) it will have to suffice. As you can see, he still goes in for a bit of boxing – note shape of ears.

 

 

We had a rare day off on Saturday and went to an exhibition in Shaftesbury (Dorset) to see a good mix of artists, including Workshop on the Web’s own Amo House. It was a lovely show – I do enjoy the chance to see artists of different disciplines all exhibiting together. Loved the metal flowers.

Amo was showing some of her delicious fat books. You can see them on the front page of this site. They are real works of art. I also loved her ‘scrolls’ which were jumbo-sized spools with the most wonderfully decorated lengths of embroidery cascading down. That girl has some seriously good ideas.

 

After a spot of lunch we headed off to Myakka in Wincanton – a warehouse version of the ethical mail order furniture brand. Bought the little chap below. He looks really good in my ‘Moroccan’ hallway but I must get another table lamp, to fit the theme.

Well, there you are – a very personal blog with hardly a mention of the wow word.  I did find, with my last blog, that it was extremely useful to be able to look back on this sort of stuff. I hope you don’t mind putting up with it – back to art proper in the next edition.

 

 

Whiling away the hours

We have been working so hard on the WOWbook and the new site that I thought we might risk taking a day off. So, while Clive disappeared into the garden to do some long overdue tidying up, I got the sketchbook out and started planning some new work. It’s not a new theme as it is on Books of Hours – something that grew out of work for my Long Diaries and Tall Tales book. Clive and I enjoyed working together on that and his calligraphy skills came in handy, not only for the writing but for forming Latin-ish place names that I cut out on the Scan’n’Cut machine.

We went on to make this piece. I photographed it in stages as we went along.

On a background of Vilene, scraped with gesso and tea dyed, I started building up the piece using computer printed silk to translate my design of astrological symbols.

The central boss was formed from water-soluble paper and a metal boss that Clive made for me. A  strip made from mountboard and curled wire (yup, Clive again) and a piece of machine embroidered cotton from the bit box competed step 1.

The next stage was to add more cut strips of painted mountboard to define the space and some kozo paper leaves painted with Pebeo Prisme paint. Clive drew me a Celtic looking shape and some roman lettering. I cut these, using the Scan’n’Cut.

 

The next step was to add Clive’s calligraphy in the bottom panel and to make a fancy initial letter from Prisme paint.

The final touch was to find a suitable sample in the bit box –  this one of machine embroidered squares with wrapped curtain rings looked very Celtic.

Our plan for the new work is to do more along these lines but make smaller, book-sized pieces which won’t take up so much space. We might bind them all into a book.The theme of this one was magic story about a wonderful tree in the New Forest, called the Knightwood oak. The forest is very near to where we live so this might develop a life story of its own.

Interviewing Jan and Jean

I’m really getting into this blog thing again and it’s good to have such a response from old and new friends. We have had lots of favourable comments on the new site but it will really come into its own when the WOWbook is published on 1st December. In addition to the wonderful workshop from Sherrill Kahn, you’ll find a workshop by Paula Watkins on Altered Books (there will be a video to go with this) and a review of Jan Beaney’s and Jean Littlejohn’s amazing new DVD.

 

We were so lucky to be able to arrange an in-depth interview with Jan and Jean. And we are the first to show their latest work. Sam Packer is really good at interviews and in the past, she brought us a WOW feature on Michele Carragher, the embroiderer responsible for the ‘Game of Thrones’ costumes, and with the Victoria & Albert Museum team behind the amazing Opus Anglicanum exhibition earlier this year. In addition, she pulled off one with Anthea Godfrey who led the Embroiderers’ Guild and Royal School of Needlework collaboration on making the Hardhome Embroidery of the ‘White Walker’. For a small person, she has the cheek of the devil and WOW has benefited from it.

We were as keen as Jan and Jean to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Julia Caprara’s death. In the interview, they talk about their friendship with her and we will follow this up on the Members’ Club page where we will have some previously unseen pics of her work. Her D4Daisy book, ‘Exploring Colour’, was published just in time for her to see it (she loved it) and it was a great privilege to be part of that. The photo shows one of her colourful pieces, a detail of ‘Flying Dragon in the Heavens’.

 

wprl by Julia Caprara

Meanwhile, I am off to put the finishing touches to the first lesson of my online course. It will be in the Members’ Club on the website in mid-January – just when we need to get over the after-Christmas blues. This course will loosely follow the syllabus of the old one-year City & Guilds course that I used to teach, beginning with simple but effective (and I hope exciting) methods of recording ideas for textiles which will lead to the making of stitched pieces. The pic below shows the beginnings of one of my pieces for the ‘Long Diaries and Tall Tales’ book (www.d4daisy.com) which was based on illuminated manuscripts.

I’ll be running at least two modules of the course in each WOWbook and it will build up in subsequent books. We can share our pics and have discussions on the Members’ Facebook page.

I’ve just found some photos of my first attempts with a die cutting machine. This one is a lettering and I put a very thick piece of card through so that the die would only cut part way through and just leave traces. Must play with that again sometime.

 

WOWbooks on the way!

Well – a new blog, who would have thought it? My old blog at magstitch.blogspot.co.uk is still there and has some useful information, especially on imaging programs such as Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop Elements. I feel that this is a new beginning and the excitement that the WOWbook is creating is inspiring me to get down to some serious blogging again. I hope you like the spanking new website. We are indebted to Fiona Dix of lovefibre.com for holding our hand and putting up with us during our ‘training’. I think old dogs and new tricks is the phrase that comes to mind.

The day we’ve all been working towards, here at WoW Towers, is getting very close. The last online issue of Workshop on the Web is now live (if you want to purchase it, go to www.workshopontheweb.com and click Subscribe) and we’re expecting the printers to deliver the new WOWbooks in the next week or so.

The WOWbook is looking even better than we’d hoped and there are some cracking workshops and articles. Read how Hilary Beattie puts together her delightful collages and this is not just a ‘how to’ article that covers stencilling, printing and painting. I think that her design guidelines will give a firm foundation for putting together many a future piece of work.

 

work by Hilary Beattie

work by Laura Edgar

Laura Edgar’s work is so beautiful that it seems impossible that so many of her materials are sourced from the ‘bit box’. Mind you, I think she has a very up-market bit box.

They are just two of the impressive artists in our WOWbook.

 

work by Laura Edgar

 

 

 

 

 

I think that the benefits of the Members’ Club  (free to join when you buy the book) will continue to inspire you. We have an amazing online workshop from Sherrill Kahn, which uses chalk pastels in a completely new way. I have had to have a go already and the results are impressive.

I am also excited about the ongoing course that I am going to run as part of the Members’ Club. The first module will be about design without drawing and we will go on to use what we make in small works of beauty, made from paper and fabric.

In the meantime, I’m going to dash off to deconstruct a vessel or two. You’ll find an explanation of this concept in one of the later free online classes that are part of the WOWbook experience.

A further thought. If you buy someone the WOWbook as a Christmas present, they will benefit from all the extra online content for a whole six months. It really is the gift that goes on giving.