28 September 2007

Pretty Maids?

Just sent off a quilt to an online exhibition. It started with a "what flower are you" quiz - I'm a snapdragon? - but the finished quilt doesn't really look like a snapdragon, though it uses snapdragon colours. I called it "Pretty maids all in a row" - from the nursery rhyme. Perhaps I should have found out about the phrase before using it:

(1) Protestants could not speak openly against the Queen (Bloody Mary Tudor) without retribution so they spoke in more or less a code to wit:

Mary Mary quite contrary
(Mary is a disagreeable Catholic tyrant)

How does your garden grow?
(the garden referred to is filled with the graves of protestant martyrs/opponents of the Queen and the growing number of such victims under her oppressive rule)

With silver bells and cockle shells
(instruments of torture such as thumbscrews and iron masks)

and pretty maids all in a row
(instruments like the guillotine known as maids to behead enemies)

(2) or
they were Catholic nuns; or Mary's miscarriages.

or if the rhyme really is about Mary Queen of Scots, the maids are her ladies in waiting.

More on the lore of nursery rhymes here.
And here's the quilt being put together:
Pretty maids, it turns out, is a nickname for meadow saxifrage, a small white flower with four petals (Saxifraga granulata).

26 September 2007

Doctors in the 1920s

During the office move, a box of old BMJs from the 1920s turned up. In those days the British Medical Journal (founded 1847) carried some wonderful and dreadful advertisements. Few miracle drugs but some patent medicines, lots of private (pre-NHS) nursing homes and mental asylums, scary medical machinery
and scarier undergarments -as well as cars, livery for the chauffeur, a "motor house" to keep the car inand, indeed, cigarettes.

But there were also doctors with many poor patients, as in Elizabeth Cambridge's autobiographical "Hostages to Fortune" -- she was a doctor's daughter and married a country doctor's son who was himself a doctor, living near Oxford.

24 September 2007

More from the V&A

Some closeups from the stained glass gallery.

The Real Thing crucifix

This was and probably still is in the V&A - it's made of bottle tops collected in Rwanda by Dr (of engineering) and jewellery prize winner David Poston, who lectures at Loughborough University and worked in Africa, helping people to make sustainable livelihoods by teaching blacksmithing techniques. (By the way, there's a sad/funny story about the coca-cola empire vs a film producer here, as well as a better pic of this object.)
But you might rather wear Poston's laser-welded treacle-tin bracelet, shown in this Guardian article about the V&As "Collect" high-end craft fair. Apparently "Ladies who wear craft usually have sculpted and/or twisted and/or painted hair or shaven heads, sausage-rimmed glasses, and dress Diana Vreeland-wise in black, to minimise the softening of the waist and to show off cunningly chosen and brilliantly combined accessories."

22 September 2007

Beautiful books

At the Digital Library of Poland website. This is a page from Psalterz florianski -And from the National Library of Scotland, Abraham entertains the angels in the Murthly Hours:A google of "digital library" gives links to many, many more -- including of course the British Library's treasures.

Rain series

Here are the "rain and wind" journal quilts, all in one place. The aim is to get the feeling of wind and rain - but the results seem to be pulling me in other directions. This first one could be landscape?
A variation on that them - unfinished and abandoned.Sleet ? -"Tropical rain" --Using a very dark background led to using various colours of rayon thread on velvet - including orange, because night in the city is characterised by the orange glow of street lighting. During quilting the velvet shifts, leaving gaps to be filled in with solid stitching - that "mistake" is an idea waiting to be developed -"Golden Rain", enhanced with some beads ... maybe it needs more ...
And the latest, arising from memories of sheets of rain being blown past streetlamps -

20 September 2007

Museums and photography

The V&A is encouraging people to post the pictures they take at the museum - it has a flickr group on its site, currently containing 730 images.

This leaves me curious about museums' photography policies. A quick search and dipping in at random produces:

"To protect the objects being photographed, the copyright privileges of their creators, and the safety of our visitors, there is a need for certain restrictions on taking photographs in the museum..." (Dayton Art Institute)

"Readers may use their own non-flash digital cameras and Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras to photograph certain items. We regret that the use of camera tripods is not permitted. All photography is under staff supervision in a designated area, using document support aids provided by staff where appropriate (See Section 4 below)." (National Maritime Museum library and archive)

"Photography for personal use is permitted in all galleries and exhibits
in the Museum. Certain traveling exhibits may have photographic
restrictions. These will be posted in the gallery..." (McClung Museum, University of Tennessee)

The sites usually mention that tripods need permission, flash isn't permitted, and use by press etc needs special permission.

Now for the visuals - taken in January during some of theV&A's refurbishment work:
Cornelia Parker's controversial sculpture is suspended over the interactive area in the southwest corner. (Comments at its unveiling were along the lines of "they could have repaired those instruments and kids could be playing them") --

19 September 2007

The sewing machine has tension problems - just look at that loopy thread on the back of the next dotty piece -
and it can't go for repair till tomorrow. So I'm having a "desk day" today, getting caught up on "everything" - interspersing 15-minute bouts at the computer with 15-minute bouts of tidying, sorting, purging. This is so good for the soul!

But first, another eraser-cutting exercise
At first the chains of loops didn't seem promising, but you try anything, don't you - here a swarm of bees emerged. Printing on paper (yes it's the inside of an old envelope - waste not, want not!) takes rather less ink/paint than printing on cloth.

In the first stages of the clearout, an April issue of Time Out was definitely headed for recycling - but had to be looked at quickly, and who should be pictured but my (former; and briefly, alas) singing and piano teacher, Lorraine Bowen -- haven't seen her for ages, so it's good to know that she's still delighting audiences with her wacky toonz and vibrant personality -
Also in that issue, an item that fits right in with my "dames & dawgs" photography, handbags shaped like dogs. Bizarre. They're made by Love on a Leash and include dachshunds, chihuahua, labrador. Better than carrying a real live doggy poking out of a handbag, or trailing a small dog along on its least to trip up people and get stepped on?

Dealing with the ever-growing pile of magazines (never mind all the magazines that are safely stashed away) has been on my "to do" list forever. They are mostly art and fibreart mags, with so many lovely pictures in them! Working on a weekly journal, I know how much work goes into putting magazines together. OK, thousands of copies are printed, hundreds of thousands even, so why do I want to "save" this particular one .... and these images are retrievable on the net ... there's no lack of images these days, not like when I was younger and (in retrospect) starved of this good stuff. So, out they should go (some day) -- but boy oh boy, do old habits and old longings die hard!

The sorting process has already turned up several things (leaflets, newspaper cuttings) that cry out to be blogged about. This is how those annoying, endless little heaps start, right?

18 September 2007


in Hatchards, on Sunday afternoon. The interior design section
and the textiles sectionand in the photography section, this alluring book, which comes in small format (£9.95) and larger (£14.95) -Its photos go from the very small to the cosmic -

15 September 2007

Season of ...

mists and mellow fruitfulness, and of these -
And some other pix from the Central Hornsey & District Allotmenst & Horticultural Society 58th Annual Show last weekend -

Knitted veg by Lianne, trug by Marco - Best of Show, imho!

Good start to a Saturday

How long does it take to make a recipe? A week to get around to buying the beans, another week to find a window of opportunity - and then you discover a vital ingredient is missing. So at 7am it was off across the road to Tesco to get olive oil ... and to discover that some of their school supplies are now on sale - including packs of erasers - needed for Visual Exercise 2, 30 Days of Cutting Stamps (in "Finding Your Own Visual Language by Dunnewold, Benn & Morgan). The book suggests cutting a stamp every day for a month - or six stamps during a sitting. At the bottom are some I prepared earlier -

The new erasers looked a bit small so I bought just one pack (at 36p). They're a bit fiddlier than those from Superstore in Pitt Meadows, which cost 99 cents for a pack of 5, but not impossible to use.

This morning I grabbed an old sketchbook, opened it at random, and used a few lines from an image on the page. Dabbed black Liquitex onto the stamp with a small sponge brush, then went to town on a bit of recycled sheeting, trying out variations from the rigid lines on the left to the helter-skelter on the right, thinking about patterning and negative space. The blobby bits where the stamp hadn't been cut away enough were initally annoying, but they have potential as adding some life to the patterning. Dyed, this could become usable fabric.
"Fagioli nel fiasco" is traditionally made in a chianti bottle (blown, not moulded) with toscanelli beans, garlic, sage, olive oil, and salt and pepper - slow simmered, and served with sausages or roast pork, or as a simple first course with bread. I reckon it will reheat beautifully.

11 September 2007


There's got to be an easier way - this journal-quilt piece took about 8 hours. (it now has a neat satinstitch border.) After free machining the big circles I cut out the centres - of some - to reveal the shiny fabric, but then their edges looked messy, so more machining was needed to hide the raggedness...

And then there had to be tiny circles between the bigger ones; there seemed no end to that, and I can see several places that still need a dot or two.... There's some experimentation with cutting out the entire centre and covering the hole with thread, as well as with cutting the backing away from some of the circles. Those techniques make it very tactile - you can hold it with both hands and then you suddenly come to the different thicknesses. The back is felted grey wool, with the threads still in place from moving from one circle to another (and two colours of bobbin thread) -

Here's what inspired this - "Geometric 2007" by Eileen Goldenberg, who works in encaustics.

After seeing her work in the "abstract and geometric" show on the website of Woman Made gallery in Chicago, I just had to do some more circles. Somehow my circles went their own way, rather than staying in nice neat rows.
Next time I'll cut the holes first, before layering and stitching. The layering could be exciting, and goodness knows what could happen with the stitching.

10 September 2007

More "rain"

Golden rain, this time, being blown in sheets. (Perhaps not exactly meteorologically accurate.) Both the silk velvet and the pleated metallic organza come from the car boot sale and had previous lives as a skirt (Jigsaw label) and scarf (but who would have worn such scratchiness?).

The variegated metallic thread disappears into the folds of the organza and only just shows up on the velvet (it's best to stitch in just one direction, otherwise you get unwanted "texture" on the velvet). The thread for handstitching is thicker and used here and there on the organza - but is too subtle and disappears into the folds. You really have to get close to the piece to see it -

And the colours, in real life, are palepale gold and sumptuous darkest mossy green.

08 September 2007

Vancouver, as was

This book (bought on the ferry to Nanaimo) is set in Vancouver's Chinatown in the late 1930s and 40s. Growing up in and near Vancouver in the 1950s, I was always intrigued by Chinatown and the Chinese community. Like them I too was an immigrant and spoke another language at home, but it was a language that when written looked almost like English. And yes, the family's friends were mainly German, but my own friends, though many were from immigrant families like my own, were definitely Canadian. As a child it was all taken for granted, but as an adult I question these assumptions.

So a story about Chinatown and Chinese-Canadian families hit the spot.
Vancouver Art Gallery had just had an exhibition of photos of Vancouver by Fred Herzog, mostly from the 1950s. The accompanying book is wonderful - the city I remember, and yet the city I didn't see (oh my, how it has changed!). Chinese New Year, for instance -

And an street scene -

We've bought several copies of the book but seem to be unable to hold onto them.

05 September 2007

From 36,000 feet

Flying to Canada in July I had a window seat and it was early afternoon the whole way over - and cloudless most of the way. Here's the east coast of Greenland -

And the never(?)-melting snow of the interior --

Minutes later, these amazing patches of blue appeared -

Are these "lakes" compressed glacial ice?

After Greenland, there was sea ice -

And as we flew for what seemed like hours over the Canadian north, there was ice on the lakes - or between islands -

As we got to the Rockies the clouds appeared, but this river showed clearly -

Looking on a map doesn't help in identifying it - it could be the Fraser, Canoe, or Columbia.