30 April 2010

Election? what election...

Apparently there's a general election next week. Come election time, I become a media-free zone -- but will make sure I vote: you gotta vote when you have the chance, no shirking!

Other, more civic-minded citizens are showing more interest. The Guardian newspaper asked readers to produce campaign posters for the general election, and my friend Jo Udall from the art foundation course (she who would read the paper in class before settling down to work) had an idea, did a bit of block printing and popped it in the post - lo and behold, it was one of those chosen for publication -See the rest of the posters here. They show a disillusioned, cynical electorate - or is that just 'cos they're Guardian readers?

Jo, time to think about setting up your website.....!

Mornings in the studio

For more than a week now I've been showing up "in the studio" at 9am every morning, and staying there till 1, with a coffee break or two. (Not on Mondays, those are spent in the office, earning a crust.)

After the first morning, folding fabrics, I certainly didn't plunge straight into productive work, oh no. There was palpable resistance, even downright denial. Where to start? What to do?

So one day I darned socks while listening to the radio, and then sorted out all my big sheets of paper. Another day I grappled with rescuing a pair of my son's trousers (but that's another story for another time).

One day I photographed my accumulation of TravelWriting and started to blog it - here. It meant being out of the studio and at the computer, but I resisted surfing and emails.

Yesterday I realised I couldn't listen to the radio and do design work, or anything that needs thinking. Much as I love listening to Radio 4 all morning, it has to be turned off sometimes.

So, with the radio off this morning, I was about to try to linocut some of the TravelWriting, and then remembered that styrofoam meat trays and pizza bases can easily make stamps. It didn't take long to trace (with a knitting needle) over the lines of an enlarged photocopy that was lying about, with this result. I like the embossed back of the photocopy -
The block is about 10cm high. With thermofax inks and a sponge brush, I painted and printed that little block many times - here's one result, black and grey on calico that had been lightly rust dyed -
and here are two more - the small piece on top of the "yardage" (silver on black) is for experimentation -
Another aspect of the "studio mornings" is the cleanup: it's a (self-imposed) rule that the table top is clear, ready for tomorrow, before I leave the room. The little black piece is lying there in splendour, ready for the next stage; and hopefully what the next action will be is fermenting in my subconscious....

29 April 2010

Painting stories, week 2

We chose a story - from life, the newspaper, memory, whatever - and brainstormed/visualised it, noting down the details -
Then we worked in pairs, telling the other about our story and listening to theirs. Joanna was using "The Bed Song", which starts out with the couple bedding down in a sleeping bag on friends' floors, then moving up to ever bigger beds, until they have a king-size bed that mirrors how far apart they've grown. She was visualising a plain room and a neat white bed, a tree outside the window. I added a door on the left and a blowing curtain - and a big mirror over the bed - to reflect...what?
Here's her revision -
My story is a Bluebeard variant called Mr Fox - published in Joseph Jacob's English Fairy Tales in 1869, but known at the time of Shakespeare. I used it in a storytelling course, 25 years ago, and couldn't quite remember the details - so set it in a French farmhouse, where the young wife discovers something nasty in the attic, and something else unwelcome around the breakfast table. Here's what Joanna painted for me -
which I revised to add French doors onto the patio, storm clouds gathering, and perhaps the cupboards etc of a big farmhouse kitchen.
Homework is to gather reference images for the objects etc in our painting.


Came across these at the back of a shelf this morning - examples of Mbuti bark cloths. They're made by the Pygmy tribes of the Congo. The one on the left inspired my quilt that was in the Fissures exhibition (the one I left behind on the train, which was recovered through the kindness of strangers!) -See more examples here. I love these kind of marks - they translate beautifully into hand stitch. A possible source for some small "Journey" pieces ...

28 April 2010

London's parallel universes

Just east of Notting Hill and all that it encapsulates, just beyond the Ramada Inn, north of Kensington Gardens, in upmarket Bayswateris this cosy billet -
And across the main road, the gates and guardhouse of Kensington Palace Gardens - some of the grandest and most expensive houses in the world -

27 April 2010

Making a publicity leaflet

What a lot there is to do, preparing for an exhibition. Not least, the publicity. Really you need at least 3 months lead-time, so that you can send info to magazines for their listings. Fortunately now there is the internet and this show is listed on several "what's on" sites.

Even so we're doing flyers to publicise the show locally. Some will go through letter-boxes in the area, others will be left in congenial shops. A nice picture on the front, all the details - and a map! - on the back.

As I'll be showing some of the TravelWriting, one idea is to use it on the flyer. My first attempt was done on the train from Kensal Rise to Gospel Oak, but the pen ran out towards the bottom:Next attempt, a new pen and a slightly bumpier ride -
This is the general idea - but it still needs a lot of work -

26 April 2010

Next exhibition

On the way home from the City Lit final show, having dismantled my Journey piece, Tony and I stopped at a gallery local to him and somehow got talking about having a show there - exhibiting my mixed media work (including textiles) and his photos. And now it's really happening - in June!

The gallery is called artisan80 and our show is called ... Journey. It opens 4 June and will be open Weds-Sat, 11-5, until 26 June. We'll be at the gallery on Saturdays; on other days it will be tended by Naomi, the gallery owner.

I'm currently free of most other commitments for the next few weeks and should be able to simply go into the studio and make more work - despite my good intentions and new regime (less than a week old - not quite a habit yet) it's still a bit of a struggle to actually Make Work (or even Develop Ideas) for four whole hours a day. I'm certainly enjoying listening to Radio 4 again.

Having a clear work surface at the start of the day is wonderful - but it might be better to leave it in a state where I can simply carry on, the way that some writers stop work in the middle of a sentence so that they can quickly get back into their task.

25 April 2010

London Quilters exhibition

London Quilters' biennial exhibition is at Swiss Cottage Library until 29 May, open till 8pm on weekdays, 5 on Saturdays and 4 on Sundays.

The space is large and bright, and the private view was very well attended-

The foyer area where the issue desk used to be, before it became self-service, gives extra exhibition space -
and there are quilts and smaller items for sale - touching allowed! -
Among the exhibits, Monica Milner made these discharged fabrics in the workshop with Bob Adams a couple of years ago - my own fabrics from that workshop are still in the cupboard, waiting...
Christine Restall started her series of fruit prints in another workshop I too attended - I remember her blue apples but can't remember anything I produced! -
A close-up of Linda Seward's zen garden -
and of Vicky Glynn's sheer layers -
My favourite in the show is "the red quilt", a kantha by Veronika Chambers, based on the graffiti in the neighbourhood -
Photos of all the quilts will be loaded onto the London Quilters website ... sometime soon ...

24 April 2010

Two exhibitions - Cork Street

Last week, the exhibition of Tim Lewis's "drawing machines" at Flowers Central was just being set up; it runs till 8 May -Inside the gallery, automata electrical and mechanical -
The kangaroo is drawing a donkey, and on the left is ... a snuff movie ...
In the window, this mechanism -
Also on Cork Street, Barry Flanagan's work, including many hares -
In the catalogue, the intriguing "Thumb prints, mirror prints, money" -
The Flanagan exhibition has finished; the current exhibition at the Waddington Gallery is Tapies.

Wish list

Seen in the bookshop - but today was not a buying day; my bag was already heavy enough -

Also on my wish-list is the wish for great chunks of time for indulging in some reading - and having the perfect glasses that need no careful adjustment of position to make for non-blurry reading.

23 April 2010

Two exhibitions - Lincoln's Inn Fields

On the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields is the Sir John Soane Museum,formerly the home of the architect of the Bank of England and worth a visit at any time - but until 1 May there is the added attraction of an exhibition of Mrs Delaney's embroidery and amazing cut-paper flower portraits.
On the south side is the Hunterian Museum, part of the Royal College of Surgeons

with its modern, two storey, crystal-and-glass atrium -and in a little room to one side is a small but focused exhibition about microscopy, based on the chance find of a cigar box full of microscope slides -
" Intrigued by the creativity and dexterity involved in making these delicate objects, Susanna Edwards began to research the history of microscopy. Her exhibition traces her project, exploring microscopy as craft and technology, art and science. Through stunning photography, her exhibition reveals the way in which developments in microscopy have changed the way we see the world." It's on till 3 July.

Coincidental to see this "Science poem on the underground" after the exhibition -

22 April 2010

Painting course, day 1

The course, 3 hours a week, is called Painting Stories. The tutor is stuck in Africa but had sent email instructions to a stand-in.

The first thing we did was as to make various sorts of marks with brushes, sponges, cardboard, masking tape - stippling, dribbling, splashing, printing ... that took about 20 minutes -Then we were given words and five minutes to "do" each. Can you figure out which is: secretive; freedom; flow; excessive; confusion -
I liked using the paint but didn't manage to convey the words very well. Never mind, try again some other time!

After a break we chose various objects to paint -
The pair of paintings reflect or convey our choice of contrasting words -
in this case, calm and agitated. Although it doesn't look like leg and foot bones, the mood comes through.

A new plan

Since the art foundation course finished I've been catching up with other deadlines until recently - but once you get caught up, once there's no deadline, things can drift on or fall apart...

So I've decided to spend from 9am till 1pm, the four days a week I'm at home, in the studio/workroom.

Yesterday was the first day of the new plan, and instead of settling right in to do some drawing, I ended up climbing on the table and hauling down all the repurposed fabric (mostly still in the form of clothes from the Mind shop's £1 rail), sorting them out, and folding them up.

This pile is for a baby quilt that might get made sooner or later (it's a boy) -
Then there are all the silks, linens and cottons that might be used in a new piece that is gestating - the reds for accents -
various neutrals -
and (two birds with one stone photo-wise) - darks and lights and more of those neutral mid-tones -
Very pleasant to sort and fold and listen to Radio 4, but it did take three hours! In the time remaining, and with some of the seams cut out of some of the garments that were already half cut up, a bit of design work - not going anywhere in particular yet -
The background is based on the activity in another part of the room -
which in turn started from finding those pale squares, already cut into three sizes. Not sure this is going anywhere, but "just doing" is another way to get ideas moving.

Today hasn't been as productive and already I'm cheating, writing this blog post in studio time.... I spent most of the time thinking about how to take the TravelWriting further. One possibility is to use different writing implements. Here's a shortlist of what's on hand, which I'll be sampling in the little sketchbook in its vibrant cover (thanks Mags!)