31 July 2008

Two photography shows

Anna Booth and David Ward were showing their landscape photos at the Oxo Gallery a month or two ago. Not grand sweeps of landscape - telling details of natural and man-made forms. "Their aim is to make emotive images that transcend their subject matter by using simplicity and mystery to reveal deep beauty through artistic intent."The prints were large - and their brochure is a memorable format. More of David's photos are here - on his blog he says that it was Anna's idea to have the exhibition: "Anna started this project as an unknown photographer, but one whose images I have always been impressed with. She has now shown a wider audience that her amazing work is of an equal quality to my own."Scroll down to 1st April on his blog for a wonderful image of a sand-filled house in the ghost town of Kolmanskop, Namibia - full of dazzling diagonals of light and shade through the latticework of the weathered building.

Now for something completely different. Gilbert Garcin took up photography when he retired from lampmaking. Now 80, he has published five books. He appears as his fictional "Mr Everyone" in his photomontages. "It is the idea that makes the work, while photography simply records it." He makes works "out of tiny stories that recycle personal defeats and failures."
If you've got the patience to withstand the longeurs and derangement of buffering, and understand French, there's an amusant video of him and his work here.

Why cloth?

The nature of materials is a little niggle that lives in my brain. Why are you or I drawn to choosing and using a certain kind of drawing medium, a particular type of cloth - or cloth in general, a particular kind of knitting wool - even that favourite pen, or by extension a certain mug for breakfast coffee and a different one for afternoon tea?
The question surfaced when I was reading about how sculptor David Nash chooses certain kinds of wood for certain projects -- because of his experience of what these woods will do, how they will behave.

Ceramicist Jun Kaneko too knows the properties and limits of clay and works with it accordingly.

In Inuit culture, and no doubt other traditional cultures around the world, the job of the artist (if indeed there is such a word in that tradition) is to release the spirit of the material, eg ivory or bone, that is being worked.

Weaver Sue Lawty produces another insight, in the catalogue to an exhibition called "The Fine Art of Tapestry Weaving": she is fascinated with "how a simple thread combined with the unique hand mark of the weaver, can have such a bearing on how a cloth looks and holds itself".

"The unique mark of the maker" underlies all art making, of course. The maker/artist, the material, the cascade of choices. The connections to tradition, the veering off into individuality. The combinations of circumstances.

It all keeps swirling around in the brain!

30 July 2008

Isolation - or niche?

"I am now quite cured of society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself." (Emily Bronte)

This looks like a nice place to find such company, and has a couple of the relevant accessories (the reader is probably looking for her reading glasses) -
Along the same lines of thought: "In my isolation I grow stronger" (Paul Gauguin) and "My work is always better when I'm alone and follow my own impressions" (Claude Monet).

Comes a time you have to stop looking around at what everyone else is doing, and follow your instincts, use your own vocabulary, start narrowing your focus. Or else retreat into an armchair.


This appeared a couple of months ago, off Tavistock Place, WC1 - it's done on paper and stuck to the building - but it's gone now.

In the garden

Really, the colours are so much more vivid than in the photo. I love the swathes of purple, white, orange, yellow - with punctuations of hot pink. And the apples on the laden tree turning from green to red (and falling off, more's the pity).

The clematis are looking particularly gorgeous at the moment -
And this is the first time we have lilies -

28 July 2008

2600 BC

Understated by luscious jewellery from the royal graves of Ur, on the banks of the Euphrates, at the British Museum. The statue below is a bit later, about 2100 BC. A king called Gudea built 15 temples and also had a lot of these "postbox feet" statues made - most are in the Louvre. This one, broken (and pitted), would have been particularly large.

27 July 2008

Cabbie shelters

Thirteen of these remain in London, serving tea to 23,000 drivers. They are Grade II listed buildings. This one is at the northwest corner of Russell Square.

26 July 2008

Counterfeit crochet

More patterns and images are at http://www.counterfeitcrochet.org/ - "debasing and defiling designer items one step at a time" - political comment on logos, fashion, and the global economy.

There's also a video on this project at

24 July 2008

Degree shows

Somehow, time slipped past and the degree shows came and went. I missed most of them - and missed New Designers, which is like all the degree shows rolled into one building, and happens in early July every year. But I did get to the Royal College of Art show a couple of weeks ago (...more time slips by...) and was amused by some of the Product Design projects. Like Alice Wang's idea for an alarm clock, which steals your mobile phone and randomly calls someone from your contact list, every 3 minutes after your wake-up time...

23 July 2008

Like hitting a brick wall

Here's my July BQL bag - in retrospect, I wonder why I chose that fabric combination. "Because it was there", perhaps?The "bricks" were ideal for sampling various types of machine quilting. My books on machine quilting refused to be found, so I looked carefully at some others and noted down, or invented, some patterns to try out -
Here's the inside, before the bag was put together and lined - 20 different patterns, including some I'll use again -The "mortar" became so dominant, I had to knock it back with a criss-cross of a contrasting colour thread (neon green!).

Crochet an ocean

At the Royal Festival Hall till 17 July.
This is the pretty part of the exhibit - and aren't those "Dr Seuss" corals wild! -
The other "reef" is made of plastic, and makes the point that our rubbishy, use-once plastic bags are ending up in the oceans. Their mass is now the size of England - and growing.

22 July 2008

Recent encounters with art books - floristry?

Another book that Bobby Britnell brought to the CQ summer school. Amazing photos! A whole new way of looking at flower arranging. Wonderful book. Here's a sample to whet your appetite.

21 July 2008

Recent encounters with art books - Carla Accardi

Someone who has found "her thing" -
and followed it -
This work brings to mind the woodcuts of Shiko Munakata, more of which another time.

20 July 2008

Recent encounters with art books- David Nash

These were in the Serpentine Gallery in 1995. My son liked how the pieces seem to have burnt their way through the wall.
This piece is called Downpour
and this is another Downpour -
Views of Nash's studio, an old chapel in North Wales, with some of the pieces he has made over the past 40 years --
In the book Nash talked about the qualities of particular types of wood, and how that influenced what he did with them. And about where he gets his wood - from dead, dying, or already-cut-down trees - sometimes from what he calls "wood quarries". There are many pictures of "wooden boulder" (started 1978) on its 25-year journey down to the sea, including one just before it disappeared -

19 July 2008


In these currently cloudy, gloomy days, I need to sit in maximum daylight to be able to see what I'm handsewing. So I moved the sewing machine table, so that the ironing board could go under the window. The strip lights under the shelves will be useful. And the table just fits between the sets of drawers that hold threads (on the left) and paints etc (on the right). To clear room for the sewing table, heaps of fabric ended up on the bed, and lots of things joined the permanent clutter on the worktable (bottom left).

I wanted to do some cutting out, so had to clear off the worktable. Here are some of the things that turned up: a small picture of flowers --
a bagful of beads, bought at least a year ago and promptly forgotten -
bobbins for the PQ1500, from the Brother stand at FoQ last year -- two people conferred on what the right size was, and they agreed this was it -- but they were wrong! Don't know if I can be bothered to take them back...
Less than an hour after starting, here's the cleared table. Frequently used supplies (and the lifetime accumulation of sketchbooks) are on the shelves behind, big pieces of paper (and my handyperson DIY tools) on the shelves underneath.
This is as good as it gets. I'll have to guard against using that nice bare corner as a dumping ground.

There are, of course, a few corners that these photos don't reveal. (And a bedful of heaps of fabric.) We all say "I have too much" - and use max.20% of what's on hand - but paring it down is going to be a big job.

18 July 2008


At going-home-time on this grey day, the roads were wet, but the pavements were still dry under the trees; it was a gently misting rain, gathering into big drops on the flowers, drops not yet heavy enough to fall off.Wonderful silvery drops on leaves, and a fragile poppy looking as though it had taken a battering -But best of all were the roses -

17 July 2008

Summer school

CQ's summer school weekend was held at Harper Adams (agricultural) College in Newport, Shropshire. Getting there wasn't half the fun - being there was very fun, though. "Something from nothing" was tutored by Bobby Britnell, whose work I have long admired. (The workshops run by Ruth Issett and Janet Edmonds looked good, too!)

To start with, Bobby told us to join two pieces of paper in as many ways as possible. Then we changed scale and developed one of those. The four pieces of paper slotted into a square was my starting point - the smaller ones are the square cut in half at an angle, slotted at various distances from the ends, and sometimes with the corners curled.The next day we treated papers in various ways -top left: resist (wax crayon) under ink on grey tissue; top right, Quink on a dry brush, lightly pulled across at an angle; bottom left, fax paper crumpled and gently ironed; bottom right, graphite on heavy paper, rubbed with linseed oil.

Then Bobby had the whole class do a drawing exercise, starting by putting a square onto paper with charcoal, then adding another square, and taking a circle out of the middle, and adding ... and taking out... Some people loved doing this, and some hated it - but don't the finished drawings look good! -The next stage was to use our own papers to make one of our structures. I think we suspected that eventually we'd be drawing these -- sure enough, here they all are, on the back wall:
I used heavy watercolour paper, putting the "box" near one end of the strips -- and it fell into a bird shape. Folding strips of the flimsier papers, and curling the corners, made a different sort of bird shape. I was inspired to use the qualities of the papers by reading, in one of the many books Bobby brought along for us to take to our rooms for bedtime reading, about how David Nash exploited the particular qualities of the different types of trees he uses for his sculpture.

Bobby suggested we photograph our structures in a different environment. The sun was shining, so I took my birds out into the air (it was quite windy) and tried to get them to hold still. For the grand finale of the weekend, each group set up a display of work and we wandered from room to room to see it all.
What will I carry forward from this workshop? More charcoal drawing, certainly. More thinking about the qualities of papers and types of cloth, and about using cloth-as-cloth. And it would be fun to make some of those "owls" in heavy plastic and wire them to the branches of the hedge ... and see if any passers-by notice ...