30 August 2008

Where are they now?

In June the V&A shop was selling these stamps of Chinese characters for £1 each. I limited myself to a few, but the choice was hard. Took them home and put them ... somewhere ...

Now that I've found the photo, I need to find the stamps. They'll be somewhere in the studio ... won't they?

Ah, found 'em! A mantra for Pollyanna -
In case anyone from chinese class is reading -- the character given for cheerful is le4 [fourth tone]; the New Oxford Pocket Chinese Dictionary says it also means laugh. Gracious is en1; it also means matrimonial happiness. Kind is shan4; hmm, this means good deed - or good and honest; wise; friendly; familiar - and also be good at, be apt to - but not "kind" per se. For strong, they got the character wrong- qiang2 is written with a square at top right. This character isn't among the 52,000 in my dictionary and -delightful thought- could be nonsense.

If this bit of Schadenfreude pushes your buttons, check out this website showing misuse of "hanzi" - usually in tattoos. (Or maybe tattoos don't have to make sense?) btw, the word for tattoo, wen2shen1, cconsists of the character for "writing; language; culture - which also means "civil; gentle" and "cover up" - along with the character for "body". If Chinese language (and culture) interests you, you can learn more at chinesepod.com - they have a free trial period.

Errors like this wrong character just go to prove that proofreaders are needed everywhere in the world, and not just in the book publishing industry!

Back to the studio now, though. While looking for the stamps I also found this old block:Wonder what it will look like when it's printed...

28 August 2008

Keep on truckin'

It's been awfully quiet outside - no traffic on the road - and here's why, as caught by Thomas, who happened to be walking past the railway bridges at Finsbury Park station -
Full speed nowhere!

Art that flows

"I make art daily--much in the same manner like a musician who practices notes. Often they are just small things--my immediate responses to life. In addition to the daily pieces, I work on larger ideas and have several pieces and mediums going at the same time. These multiple works inform each other with their ‘making’ and with their content. Some I ‘like’, some I don’t. I am happiest when my opinions disappear; one work simply flows into another" - so says Annie Helmericks-Louder, a painter who also works with fabric. See her work here and here (the latter site may have problems launching on some PC platforms), or read about her show on Ragged Cloth Cafe. Here's a detail from the image that fronts her website - fabulous use of fabrics:In the Ragged Cloth Cafe post, Linda Frost says "art should provide a speed bump to the daily race to the finish" - yes!

Via Linda's blog I came to an article about another show in Lawrence, Kansas, called The Dime Bag Show - artists donated $10 to the local Social Services League and filled a bag with "stuff" from which to make art - with wonderful results! The short video shows Linda's two pieces in that show - here's one (love the scaled-down shirt) -

Book making book

Very exciting to look through this book. It has inspiration -
alternating with instruction -
I'd love to go to some of the sessions it's based on, or rises from.

27 August 2008

Seasonal glut

They've been falling off the tree for a while, so Tony decided to pick the ripe ones he could reach.
The damaged ones got salvaged and stewed, then set to drip through this contraption.
Yeild so far: two-and-a-bit jars of ginger-lemon-apple jelly. There will also be applesauce and probably some apple chutney, as well as pie(s) and crumbles.

This might lead on to a journal quilt...

Finished at last

Borders decided, quilted, and bound, on a journal quilt started a while ago. The quilting has made the kettles look a bit battered. Something to watch out for next time.

22 August 2008

Class at FOQ

The three-day masterclass with Dorothy Caldwell was a delight - "The expressive stitch". We were nine in the class, and the first thing we did was to use a long strip of paper and make stitch marks on one half and inky fingermarks on the other. Put together, they show nine personalities in search of expression

Here we are looking at and thinking about the work -
On the first day we did mark-making on small sheets of nice thick paper, and started small "kantha" pieces, using simple shapes and seeing what happened with the stitching. Dorothy said that on the third day we'd be making our stitched and on-paper work into a book. We continued, or finished, the stitched pieces as homework that evening.
Anyone walking past the classroom the next day might have seen an unusual sight - nine women sat round stitching, with blindfolds on! We'd cleared our worktables and threaded five needles, then basted two pieces of cloth together and made five french knots evenly spaced down the left side. Dorothy read us words, and their definition, from an art dictionary, and we stitched our response to each word. They were: gesture; contrast; shape; transformation; intuition.
We did some rubbing with graphite, painted pages with black gesso, and tried piercing and punching of paper, then moved on to couching thread onto stiff, semi-transparent cotton, adding other stitches as desired.
Above is my work table, below an example of what other people did.
My favourite marks were made with india ink on sheer fabric that had been laid over a nice thick paper. The dark areas are where the ink went through to the paper, and the ink on just the cloth gives a mottled effect.By now we were getting lots of "pages" together for the book that we'd be making at the end of the class. Next day Dorothy showed us slides of the development of her work and we went to see her exhibition, then on to use wax in a corner of the Virtual Studio, and discharge with chlorine bleach outside, where it was blowing a gale but not raining.
Some results - discharged with chlorine bleach, either painted over completely or dabbed with the end of a small foam brush -
We spent the afternoon organising our pages into signatures, and sewing them together - and admiring our work -
What better tangible outcome than a book to look through, or add to?

21 August 2008

Catching up

"Don't say that you want to give, but go ahead and give! You'll never catch up with a mere hope." - Goethe

Even after so few days away from home and computer, there's so much catching up to do - with family, at work, with myself - putting things away, doing the laundry, answering emails, writing the blog, catching up on sleep - where does "getting going in the studio" fit in? Is it a mere hope? Sitting at the computer is not the same as going into the studio and going on with the work. Sitting at the computer is a distraction. Distractions are the enemy of hopes.

Now let's have a photo.

These four "bon mots" are some of the ancient work that emerged druing my recent studio blitz. They're freely couched onto silk dupion scraps and measure 4" x 6":

- Snatch the eternal from the desperately fleeting

- What is unsought will be undetected

- The appetite comes by eating

- No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent

18 August 2008

Festival of Quilts

Where to start? The long-awaited Festival of Quilts was the usual mixture of visual overload, gabfest, and spending spree. For me the highlight was Dorothy Caldwell's exhibition, and her class, which I'll write about later.

Wandering around the rows of quilts, I came across someone photographing my "And Flowers Almost Poems" -But I forgot to get a photo of "Rainstorms".

Of course, people were intent on photographing everything everywhere:Some impressions of the overall show:The bag tombola raised £4800 for the St Anthony's Hall, new home of the Quilters' Guild, and that's a small part of the button-up quilt that went right round the large eating and seating area -
And didn't the CQ stand look good, with some of this year's journal quilts, and a few of the Thin Blue Line pieces -
Di Goodison, president of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles, was obviously impressed -Part of the fun, of course, is the people watching - especially the patched and quilted bags they're carrying. And they're certainly very willing to tell you about them - this one was made while travelling - she had some threads along, so she bought a piece of batik fabric and, essentially, followed the lines - isn't it glorious! Even the rubbish bins seemed to be a quilt in the making -

15 August 2008


My sister loves these, and is working on replicating the ones Mom used to make. (They were never Dad's favourite cookie.)

Mix together:
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract
Mix together:
2 cups flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 T custard powder
1/2 cup butter
Mix in:
1/2 cup plus 1T sugar
Add wet ingredients and mix well.
Add dry ingredients in several steps blending well after each.
Put 2T mounds on greased cookie sheets and flatten them a little.
Bake at 325F for 15 to 20 minutes brushing tops with a little milk after 10 mins.
Bake only until dough turns golden brown. Do not overbake.
Glaze with icing sugar mixed with a little hot water.
Makes at least 16 cookies.

14 August 2008

Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious

The Royal Academy shop has a range of items based on designs by Edward Bawdenincluding a rather nice book, which includes this watercolour of trees, from his trip to the Canadian Rockies in 1949 (exhibited in London in 1951):
Bawden was a prolific designer and artist, friends with Eric Ravilious; I get confused, their styles are similar. The Imperial War Museum had an exhibition of Ravilious's work in 2004 (he was a war artist, on submarines) - you can still visit that exhibition online: click here.
Ravilious designed this coronation mug for Wedgwood - first for Edward VIII in 1936, then altered it for George VI in 1937 - and it was issued again in 1953.

13 August 2008

Dear Jane and good causes

London Quilters' group quilt was shown at the group's show at Swiss Cottage Library in May and June. It will be raffled, with proceeds going to two charities - North London Hospice, and Hope for Grace Kodindo. Tickets are £1 each, and the draw is at the Knitting and Stitching Show on Sunday 12 October. Hope for Grace Kodindo works to make birth safer for 11,000 women a year in the main hospital in Chad, central Africa. Outside the developed world, childbirth is dangerous, even deadly. In the UK, maternal mortality is 1 in 5000. In Chad, the figure is 1 in 11; they have a saying, "a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave." And 40% of women have at least one child, or are pregnant, by age 17; 6.3 children are born per woman. Life expectancy is 47 years (it's 78 years in the UK). And in Chad, infant mortality is 93 per 1000, compared with 1.6 per 1000 in the UK. Amazing that just £5 will save the life of a pregnant woman in Chad.

12 August 2008

Just 100 things

Could you get by in life if you owned just 100 things? This article explores the joys and dilemmas - and how to cheat. For instance, I count my many spools of thread as just one "thing."
Choose your categories and start counting!

And if it's a decluttering mantra you're after -- the best organising principle of all isn't "where should I put this" but -- "how can I get rid of this".

Quilts in books

First, for the academically-minded, a website that offers a list of books in which quilts are American symbols.

And for those who'd like a good read, Kate Grenville's The Idea of Perfection, in which a quilt figures importantly. One commentator on the BBC's item on the book (years ago) - a man - says: "...amazing book. Incidentally the engineering is real. I bet the quilting is too."

What stays with me from this very enjoyable book is the passage when the heroine is thinking back to her childhood, of lying under the wool quilts that her grandmother made (this is in Australia), and noticing the alternation of dark and light, light and dark. Perhaps it was a quilt like this one, made from tailor's samples (picture found in Miranda Innes, Traditional quilts from around the world):

You can read the first few chapters here.

11 August 2008

As good as it gets

I'm heading off to Birmingham, for the Festival of Quilts, and a three-day class that starts tomorrow. Before going, I decided to get the workroom in good shape to come back to. For months the bed had been heaped, dauntingly, with ... everything - but no longer!
I found that long piece lying cumpled among the heaps, and have started to rescue it. It will have more layers of sheers, and then be quilted with close parallel rows lengthwise. The quilting will pause for rows of bugle beads to be added, going across the piece like snow fences across the prairie.
This photo is by Richard A Shuff. While I was living on the prairie - 1979 or so - I never thought to take photos of the snow fences.

Shisha galore

Shisha mirrors adorn a marriage shawl from north-west India. Beyond the border there's another area of overall patterning - with the corner unfinished.
This used to be used as a sort of headboard in my small bedroom, but currently it's draped over the sofa, where the mirrors really sparkle. Such exuberance.