31 March 2006


Those pointy petals... those pale edges, those ruffly leaves...
those dark accents in the centre. What delight.

30 March 2006

Rainy day in Paris

Parc de Bercy, November

Watching the raindrops And walking among the trees
As dusk falls
Time to hurry away, across town to the Gare du Nord, the Eurostar, London again

29 March 2006

Utterly, utterly inspiring!

One of the speakers at the recent Art of the Stitch study day at the V&A was Karen Nicol. I was blown away by her work. She's been working in the fashion industry (Clements Ribiero, John Rochas, Betty Jackson, etc etc) for 20 years, anonymously because the big designers don't credit their workers - "they keep me as their precious secret" she said.

In November Karen had a show at Rebecca Hossack gallery in Charlotte Street. She said that, freed of a brief, able to do whatever she wanted, she didn't know where to start - for a moment. But in the fashion world "design innovation and speed is what keeps me in business" - so it didn't take her long to get going, and she came up with stunning designs presented in the form of wrap-around skirts. Her flea market finds were incorporated in them -- unpainted farm animals, bra elastic, striped ribbons, laces -- all with amazing results.

They were spread out at the front of the room before and after the talk, and were mobbed by curious, appreciative, and delighted textile lovers.
The lacy effect is made on tulle with bra elastic, embellished with the type of ribbon you might hang war medals from --
This next one is called Black Forest and has, along with the dancing bears, silhouettes reminiscent of those "cows going up the mountain" pictures -- and two long black stockings to act as pockets! See the whole thing, and better pix of the others, at http://www.r-h-g.co.uk/ under "western artists" then "Karen Nicol".
"Spot the Dog" was once a linen tablecloth. Karen made the cutwork on her Irish machine (it has a wide satin stitch, controlled by a knee lever -- and you can work very close to the needle to add in fringe, fabric, etc) -- she used a tighter tension so some of the black bobbin thread would show. The dog is at the front of the wrap skirt, and there are other motifs among the cutwork. Karen's birds are delightful.
Another bird, among some amazing 3D flowers, embroidered on the Irish machine.Karen said she trusts in luck and draws with confidence. "I always carry a little notebook with me -- and I get inspiration from everything -- it's something I think of all the time -- it's my big pleasure."

I loved the witty titles of her pieces, too. One called "Shot Silk" had embroidered birds taken out of those paintings of still lives with dead game -- beautiful irridescent feathers, but the birds were hanging upside down. In between, cut-out circles of various sizes. First the gorgeousness of the piece hits you, then you look more closely and there's something rather subversive.

Addendum, 2107:
Ten years on, Karen has gone from strength to strength. Her website is ww.karennicol.com and at the bottom of her web pages you'll find a link to her instagram account.

25 March 2006

Dinner at Vicky's

Here she is, doing some interim cleanup. The giant plant sits in the corner of the dining room and has almost reached the ceiling.It's full of lovely negative spaces. You don't really notice the shadows until you see the photo.

Auditioning thread

The experiment this time is to use two colours for the quilting.

23 March 2006

Barcode Series #6 underway

I love mixing the fabrics, but after "only" six quilts, they're starting to feel a bit same-ish. The (subconsciously self-imposed) hidden agenda, which is gradually revealling itself to me, seems to be to use up all the stripey fabric -- but there's a couple metres of it left - enough for, oh, eight more of these. Or, merely two more - with stripey backs.

Barcode Series #5

Doesn't have a name yet. Actually it's upside down ----------- Try again ... ah, that's better!

Barcode Series, #4

"Goldfish Bowl" is backed and ready to quilt. But -- how to quilt it? And, how to get some orange out near the edge....


Survivor from last year, in the front garden.

21 March 2006

Spring equinox

Morning sunlight bounces off a window across the street and rakes across my journal page.

17 March 2006

Art of the Stitch study day

The speakers were Jehane Boden Spiers (www.yellowhouseart.com - Embroidery as Exploration), Jennifer Harris (the Textile Collection at the Whitworth Art Gallery - www.whitworth.man.ac.uk/), Karen Nicol (24/7 Stitch - see www.r-h-g.co.uk under western artists), and Jo Owen (The Influence of the Human Form in my Work - no pix on the web). The speakers were consistently excellent, inspiring - professional. And the room was full of textile enthusiasts - practitioners, explorers. Fabulous.

Between speakers we had a chance to get a close look at the work - this was one of the less busy moments during the breaks.

Interesting clothes were being worn, bags carried, jewellery, hair ...

15 March 2006

Fabric auditions for Barcode Series #4

This started from the 5-scrap rectangle thrown together during a tryout of my "new" serger/overlocker. It needs about 6 more rounds. These strips are narrower than in the previous quilts and there's perhaps a bit much of the stripe...Previously I covered the stripes with net to knock back the brightness a bit, but that didn't do the quilting stitches any favours. In this one the knocking back will have to be via the quilting.

Also I prefer the more random strips, rather than the regularity of these expanding squares. But it makes for all sorts of other possibilities.

Toooo many stripes at the moment! (And that bit of green doesn't pass the audition.)

14 March 2006

Venice, anyone?

A couple of images of Venice caught my eye at the Cancer Research "Art for life" fundraiser. This one by Patrick Hughes, master of perspectival illusion. The photo might (or might not) show how he does it - by having the furthest point of the painting on the foremost plane of the 3D construction. When you stand in front of the picture and move from side to side, the perspective moves with you. (Almost as disconcerting as those eyes in portraits that follow you around the room.) The other is by Bill Jacklin, one of my favourite artists.

Whole lotta quilting goin' on

Machine-basted in a spiral, with pins to mark where spirals go on the non-spiral fabric. This kind of quilting is like having a colouring book - follow the lines.

Workspace at Tony's

07 March 2006

Inspired outcomes

This one's finished, done, sorted, completed. The back came from the charity shop - it was an African print panel and fitted the height perfectly. I cut out the centre so that the doves fly outward.Took it round to Jean's for show&tell, and to see how Tricia, Traciy, and Jean were coming along with the challenge.

Took the other, which isn't quilted yet, just pieced, as well. It needs something on the right. That's Erik looking the other way. Tricia used hand-dyes for hers, and plans to make another. It has a controlled explosion effect -- Jean has her fabrics chosen and ready --
Traciy has just moved house (and painted every room) - and is ready to get to work in her new sewing room.

04 March 2006

Australian inspiration

First, the inspiration, a photo in a book on Aboriginal textiles-- this is made from batik fabrics (made at Utopia) and is 2 metres square. I love the complexity within simplicity, and the way it brings labyrinths to mind. But how it will "translate" to my fabrics is going to be a surprise. Fabric possibilities - some commercial batiks, some biggish prints, some African tie-dyes, and some furnishing samples --
Other fabrics. A more restricted range of possibilities --
And now the (interim) results. This has grown to nearly 80cm square, and thereabouts it will have to stop.This started with a scrap left over from the other, and is about 60cm, and still growing --
Neither is turning into a labyrinth. But there are many fabrics yet to use....

01 March 2006

Americans in Paris exhibition

At the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. Instead of lots of explanation on labels on the walls, you got a little booklet with a short description of the picture - enough to give you some information, not too much to be overwhelming. And interesting; to the point. Plus, space for making drawings -- not so much as a reminder, but as a way of looking harder, better at the picture.
Here's one called "Repose" (not sure if repose is what's on her mind...) by John White Alexander, 1856-1915. The booklet says: "The theme of the idealised woman in an elegant interior setting ensured international success for Alexander in the 1890s. His familiaryity with contemporary French aesthetic taste is evident here. The sitter's sinuous curves and languorous expression are provocative and alluring."After hot chocolate in the cafe, we stood in the portico and took photos of people in Trafalgar Square.