05 March 2015

Poetry Thursday - a trail of crumbs

First crumb - a link on the Quiltart list to the work of Michael James, which had fallen off my radar. On his site I was struck by the unusual colours in this, and the way the light seems to come through the work -
The Concept of Qi, 2008, cotton and dyes, 50.5"h x 52"w
It being Thursday, I needed to find a poem for the blog, and this would be a great illustration for such a poem ... so I started looking for a poem about "qi" ... which led to the second crumb - the work of Qi Baishi (1863-1957), purveyor of "poems in a brush stroke", for example (what, after much looking, to choose??) -
Gourds (via)
Third crumb - what is "qi", actually? The ancient Chinese described it as "life force" which permeated everything and linked their surroundings together. Moving into the scientific realm, qi becomes an elemental force: "Fairly early on, some Chinese thinkers began to believe that there were different fractions of qi and that the coarsest and heaviest fractions of qi formed solids, lighter fractions formed liquids, and the most ethereal fractions were the "lifebreath" that animates living beings." But the scientific view is that "Qi is a purely hypothetical concept."

Fourth crumb - the traditional Chinese character for "qi" -
That took me to the Chinese dictionary which still sits centre-front in my field of vision, right next to various thesauruses. (Sidetrack: get camera, take picture, download, tweak, upload ...) -

What looks to us like a short, simple word is manifest in my dictionary in 37 different characters, gathered into four different pronunciations (tones), with a variety of meanings including: a period of time; deceive; seven; wife; strange; ride (eg a bicycle); awaken; get up; abandon; utensil; and, right near the end of the list, "our" qi - whose meanings include air; gas; breath; smell; airs, manner; spirit, morale ... and as a verb: make angry; get angry; bully, insult. Isn't language a wonderful thing?

How many crumbs have we pecked at on this trail? I turn back to go find today's poem - and see that the crumbs that should lead me back have, like Hansel and Gretel's, disappeared.




03 March 2015

Tuesday drawing - minerals at Natural History Museum

When we were recently at the Natural History Museum, I had a quick look at the minerals and wrote a bit about the collection in this post. Drawing there seemed to offer too many choices - I had brought coloured pencils and watersoluble crayons, but spent most of the time not with the fabulous colours but with textures, and of a small section of minerals at that.

The theme for the CQ challenge this year is "Elements" and the mineral elements simply fell into my lap, so to speak, in their cases near the entrance to the gallery. I set about collecting an example of each on a page with 15 little squares -
Capturing some of the textures in pencil was beyond my powers or patience, but it was good to look so closely at these forms and structures. Nor were the examples I'd chosen the only possibility - some of the elements had many different examples, truly a bewildering array when the subject is new to you.

These are "my"elements; whether they become a quilt in some way (one does wonder, how...) or not, it's been an education to study their appearance and learn something about them. Did you know that two-thirds of chemical elements only occur in nature as compounds? I was lucky to find 13 of them in one room -
Sulphur
Antimony
Arsenic
Copper
No photo of Tellurium, "lamellar on quartzite" ... ah well ...
Tin - it occurs chiefly as tin dioxide in the mineral cassiterite
Bismuth - tarnished flattened crystals showing stages in growth
Lead
Carbon in the form of graphite
Carbon in the form of diamond (or rather, glass models)
Mercury is a liquid but sometimes found in tiny globules with cinnabar
One of the forms of silver - as a wire; it also looks lovely as a dendritic spray of crystals
Nor did I photograph the gold, though I drew it as a "group of rounded crystals" and as a "waterworn mass on quartz".

And now for something completely different - eventually I sat down in front of this beauty and got out the crayons -
"Wardite, grey-blue with green variscite and cream crandallite" - from Utah. Possibly I'd used up all my looking ability by then, or just wanted to indulge in colour ... it was difficult to decide how much detail to include, knowing that leaving out details would misrepresent the structure of something that had "grown" in a particular way.
A pale imitation of the real thing ... just wrong
Mike had, as usual, captured a great number of separate objects, of which this is but one -
Those look like lamellar crystals, and the moment I saw them I wanted to stitch them! He preferred using pencil over pen for the minerals, but in her drawing of wiry silver, Caryl found the opposite - with pen she felt freer -
 Finally, a curiosity -

02 March 2015

Continuing the first JQ of 2015

The printed fabric has had two weeks to dry, plenty of time, too long even, and the JQ is finally underway. First, some layout -
Then, finding fabric for the back, and something for the middle - stiffness might suit the "grids and structures" theme, so I'm using some fairly heavy interfacing that was left over from another project, a 17-foot "river" made in 2003. (See, these leftovers do eventually have a use!) Cutting all the backs and middles at the start of the project is a useful thing to do. Keeping them where you can later find them is useful too...

After a wee while at the machine, stitching down the few blocks of colour with a dark silvery thread, it looks like this -
And that's one of the backs and middles underneath - the interfacing cut to 6x12" size and stitched to the back. I wonder what will happen with the quilting, will the size change at all or will the stiffness prevent that - and if so, what will the top look like, will it be pulled in unattractive ways? The only way to find out is to try. 

Another decision made at the start is that all the quilts will be faced, so the design goes right to the edge rather than being framed.

After doing a minimal amount of quilting, pulling the thread ends through to the back, it was getting very cluttered back there, so I'm having to bury the thread ends, a little job I quite like on an item this small. There could be as many quilting lines as printed lines - I like to think the back will be similar-but-different to the front in its basic patterning.
Note the useful frame, cut out of some stiffish paper. The 6x12" cutout area is useful too - once you have the exact quilt area chosen, put the cutout back in the frame, remove the frame, and draw around the block (and trim if you're adding binding) - or stitch just outside the drawn lines in a different colour, and use those for adding facing, which will be turned to the back.

After doing rather a lot of heavy-thread-in-bobbin stitching from the back (in red and metallic silver) it ended up looking unbalanced - that yellow area is too big! - so I added some criss-cross yellow threads near the bottom -
and then some criss-cross black areas to integrate the yellow ... this could go on and on, but I decided to stop, and here it is, with the edges pinned under (for now) -
One thing does rather lead on to another, and when making this JQ I had in mind the entire series. The "big idea" is to take one element and continue it into the contiguous quilt, so they join up in a frieze somehow -
Instead of working ahead to February, I'm working back to January (and have an inkling of what March will be, too). 

01 March 2015

Hurry UP!

Some of the zillions of photos I used to take on the escalator at Vauxhall, on the way to college.












Scottish sundials

In the Edinburgh Botanical Garden, a modern sundial (running two hours fast!) -
Made by Ian Hamilton Findlay with Michael Harvey in 1975, installed at Inverleith House in 2013.

In the National Museum of Scotland, two polyhedral dials -

Sundials were very popular in the orderly gardens around castles and mansions, particularly in Scotland (said the label).

The lecturn sundial above is from Cantray, Croy, Inverness-shine, and has 13 dials on five faces, showing the time in Peking, Goa, Bengal, Ozaca, Troy, Smyrna, Cairo, Jerusalem, Syracuse, Naples, Rome, Paris and Cantray.

But 13 dials on five faces are nothing compared to this beauty, an obelisk sundial with 76 faces near Crieff -
The photo is from a comprehensive and fascinating website called Sundials of Scotland.

Both obelisk and lecturn sundials are thought to have originated in Scotland.


This one was made in Scotland in the late 17th century and sold at Christies in 2011 for £16,000.

The NMS website shows its wide-ranging holdings of sundials - 57 - many portable and most made outside Scotland. But it doesn't include the lectern sundials shown above.

28 February 2015

The view is much improved

While putting together the CQ newsletter - and trying to get most articles onto a two-page spread - I've been frustrated by seeing the PDFs that I send out to the authors as a sequence of single pages on my screen.

And I've been wondering, off and on, if they see them that way too ... but somehow I've never done anything about it, like finding out how to change the view ...

My digital-generation son has taught me that in order to find out how to do something "techy", use a search engine: "Just type in the question as if you're talking, Mum."

So I typed in "how do you get a pdf to display as two pages"  ... and quick as a flash came the answer (ok, I did have to click to get to the page) -

"When you open a PDF for the first time, it may display one page at a time.
You can change the view so that two pages are displayed side-by-side (like a book is). These instructions explain how to change the view in Adobe Reader (a common program used to view PDFs that can be downloaded for free from Adobe).
From the View menu, choose Page Display. 
Then select “Two Page View” and “Show Cover Page in Two Page View.” "

So I did -
"From the View menu, choose Page Display; then select "Two Page View" (or "Two-Up")"
Which means the PDF looks rather like this -
Now, is there some way that two-page view can become the default option?

The first answer to the question "how do you get a pdf to default display as two pages" is a little bit complicated - or seems to be, thanks to the amount of information on the page, and the terse jargon ... I need a digital-generation interpreter!

Back to the Results page, and anothr click brings this useful information:

"Change the default page layout (initial view)
You specify the default initial view settings in the Preferences dialog box. (See Set preferences.)
  1. In the Preferences dialog box under Categories, select Page Display.
  2. Open the Page Layout menu and choose Automatic, Single Page, Single Page Continuous, Two-Up, or Two-Up Continuous.
Note: The PDF opens with the page layout specified in Preferences unless a different page layout is specified in Document Properties (File > Properties > Initial View). The Document Properties setting overrides the Preferences setting. If using Document Properties, be sure to save and close the document for the change to take effect. Acrobat users can change the initial view, unless security settings prevent changes. Reader users cannot change the initial view."

(Preferences is in the Edit menu.)
Setting the default to two page view
It's interesting that "Reader users cannot change the initial view." Now that my view is set to Two-Up, readers of the PDF sent to them will automatically be able to see it as two pages ... whereas when it was sent to them as a sequence of single pages, they wouldn't even be able to change it!

Putting them away

As the delicate ceramics come out of the kiln and need taking home - as well as needing storing at home - there comes the question: how to keep them intact and safe?

Already I have many items made during previous ceramics courses -
... and those are just the ones left out on display - we're running out of space...

The obvious first step is triage -- sorting out what definitely needs to be kept and urgently needs to be kept safe, versus what is a waste of space and should be got rid of. And in between, what to keep on hand or leave out, gathering dust until ... when? For now, I still need to keep some of them - if only to review before the next time I have a chance to develop this project and can focus it more -
Broken bits - to be kept for "a while"
Next is recording, with photographs and dimensions and descriptions. Big job, needs a system, maybe a database? Or maybe just a folder on the computer for the photos, with captions containing dimensions, date, etc -

None of the works have titles (somehow I never even considered titles, these are works in progress not finished Art!) so my plan is to put a small photo for identification on the outside of the wrapping.

Ah the wrapping... Research finds this guidance for shipping delicate items. For the less hazardous task of storage, I'll mostly use bubble wrap - for the flat items at least - augmented with shredded paper for the more 3D and delicate-edged pieces. (Is there a better way?)
Broken bits are layered with crumpled newsprint in the bag;
dimensions have been recorded, for captioning of photos
Finally, gathering the pieces together in one spot - a big box in a cupboard?

All along, I have someone's wise words ringing in my ears - "before you start making it, think about how it will be displayed, and about how you'll transport and store it."