30 June 2010

Sol's walls

Thanks to Rayna's blog for the heads-up on Sol LeWitt wall drawings at MASS MoCA. I went to the website and found photos of the drawings being installed -
For a video of the installation process, click here. (And in this video LeWitt's installer, Anthony, talks about the formula, rationale, and collaboration behind the installation of one of the wall drawings made from pencil lines - the instructions are "all written in the title".)

Here's a view of some of the final installation -"In the early 1980s Sol LeWitt began to use India ink and colored ink washes, which are applied to walls with soft rags – a technique that creates jewel-tone colors and gives the works a fresco-like quality. LeWitt frequently applied the same systems to this new medium that he had used when working with pencil. He assigned gray, yellow, red, and blue ink washes to stand in for the four basic types of line; gray ink wash took the place of vertical lines, yellow replaced horizontal, red replaced diagonal left to right lines, and blue was used for diagonal right to left. "

Tourists v. locals - infographics

Eric Fisher has made maps logging geotagged photos taken by locals (who took photos over more than a month - blue) and tourists (whose photos were all taken within a month -red) and charted them for many cities -- see others here.

An amazing selection of revelatory "infographics" can be found on the Information is Beautiful blog - like this "Colours in Culture" chart, which you can see in detail here.

27 June 2010


This small rug - about 30" across - is made of strips of t-shirt fabric, from old t-shirts of course, very densely hooked into hessian. As part of the current decluttering effort, I passed my accumulated t-shirts and precut strips on to someone who loves to make rag rugs. But it certainly would be fun to use this as a starting point for some applique with handstitch...

It was inspired by some dress fabric bought at Liberty about 20 years ago, for about £2 a yard, which got made into curtains for the narrowboat about 10 years ago. They have faded something shocking, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, after a decade of bright light.

26 June 2010

Broadway Market

My first encounter with Broadway Market, E8, was back in the days of its half-deserted obscurity, one of the venues for Hidden Art of Hackney. In an empty shop taken over by artists for the week of the event, I bought one of my favourite objects, now used as a sugar bowl - but that's another story.

Nowadays, after rent-rises and trendyness, the old shops and restaurants have largely closed down. Even so, and even on a weekday (the market, with dozens of stalls, is on Saturdays), there is a feast for the eyes -An old-fashioned note -- balls of unpretentious knitting yarn in the window of a chemist (drugstore) - what a combination -
The street boasts two bookstores, a rather minimalist art bookstore, and this one, with a cosy "vintage section" downstairs -
Elsewhere along the street, also in a shop that has stairs going down rather than up, some astonishing shoes
The red trim is slightly, intriguingly sparkly ... but the price, ye gods, £209! -
The fabric shop at least had affordable things -
and displayed a menu of patterns, along with some "serving suggestions" of fabric
Rolls of narrow kimono fabric, £13.95 a metre -
And to my delight, tomato pincushions AND darning mushrooms -

Seen in Hackney

On the way to Broadway Market, these bicycle sheds at Dinmont Housebeyond which is the Great Wall of Hackney, dividing - for a reason lost in the mists of time, but probably related to borough boundaries - the estate -
The lettering on this building is a self-evolving typeface, brought about by the effects of weather peeling parts of the plastic letters -
A lock on the Regents Canal (eastern branch) -
Sinister, wot? -
This too has a slightly eerie feel - but it's just watering cans -

Bark cloth

Another thing that turned up in my (ongoing!) sort-out of the studio - photos of Mbuti mud cloth, made by the Pygmy tribes of the Congo. The one on the left was the happy inspiration for my Fissues quilt - I used those sorts of marks, handstitched onto a quilted background, and loved working that way. The other photos in this little collection show other kinds of marks ... but so far I haven't used them for further work.

The barkcloth is created by men and decorated by women: the men take strips of bark off a tree, and pound it with various mallets and tools to make it flat and soft. The women then make dyes from various fruits from the forest, and paint designs on the barkcloth. The designs reflect the look, sounds, and feel of the forest around them. The blank space is valued for its symbolism of silence (ekimi), which to the Mbuti represents cohesiveness, whereas sound represents chaos (akami). Other designs can represent the skin of the animals within the forest. Another line of thought is that the paintings are a form of ethnographic mapping. These pieces are worn for many different ceremonies and occasions, from boys enacting their puberty rituals to clothing newborns, and have high sentimental value to the Mbuti (or did till there became a market for them....) More info is here; design elements are discussed here; and this is a short video showing various barkcloths, along with Mbuti music and sounds of the village.

25 June 2010

Into the letterbox

The letter is my acceptance of a place on the MA Book Arts course at Camberwell College of Arts, starting in October. Some years ago, it was the first course in book arts that I'd ever encountered, and I thought I'd quite like to do it, learn to make arty books, but to do an art MA (1 year) you have to have an art BA (3 years) - and I was in fulltime work, and needed to continue working... I can't quite believe this wish has come true.

In the meantime, back to real life. Wondering which was older, the mailbox or the college, I did a little research, so here's some related trivia -

The college (in South London) opened as a technical institute in 1898, adding fine art courses by 1920. It's now part of the six-college University of the Arts London.

More fascinatingly, the VR cypher shows that the post box (at the entrance to Upper Holloway train station, opened in 1868) dates back to Victoria's reign, ie before 1903. Wall postboxes date back to 1857 - they were painted green - but by 1874 all UK postboxes had been painted red.

Everything has a history....

24 June 2010

New uses for old envelopes

Turn window envelopes inside out and use them as covers for little books. The title etc can be written under the clear part -They can be japanese bound, as the one above will be, one day...

Or recycle some other paper, concertina style, and slip it into the folded-over cover -
Love those envelope-interior patterns!

Sketchbook project

Inside the envelope - a 56-page sketchbook. The Sketchbook Project is run by the Brooklyn Art Library; you pay a few dollars and choose a theme and a colour of cover; they send you a book with your very own barcode on the back; you fill it and return it -- and then all the books are available for people to look at.My theme is "this is not a sketchbook" (it's a time machine!) - I started TravelWriting right away, and will document that on its blog.
The paper is quite thin and the blobs of ink from my fountain pen soak through - but that adds to the character. Instead of turning the pages into a concertina etc etc, I'll leave them as a plain ordinary book. It will probably take till mid-August to fill up, unless I start using "studio time" to travel around. Within 24 hours of receiving the book, I've travelled to the end of my local overground train line (Barking) instead of getting off at the second stop and going straight home - that filled several pages.

23 June 2010

Royal Academy schools show

We literally stumbled on the Royal Academy Schools final show. We were approaching from the rear of the building, and saw a sign at the end of a lane. Entering the building from the back door, the first room was this one -

which may look familiar if you've seen paintings or prints like this one by Rowlandson, showing the room in use 200 years ago -The casts have probably been around that long -
Elsewhere, the old building had received a fresh coat of paint for the event -
The floor must have a zillion layers of paint by now -
Painting studios need skylights, north facing of course -
In one exhibition space, some strange pipework and a floor that was covered in interlocking areas of fabric stretched around boards -
Crisp boundaries between new and old -
Here and there, special holes giving access to venerable light switches -
Along the corridors, more casts and ancient bookcases -
Central to any school is the admin office -
... but rare this the school that has this many skeletons in its cupboard -And last, a venerable stair giving access to the Royal Academy itself, behind an otherwise-closed door under the grand staircase -



"In Japan, scanning the streets for colourful manhole covers has become a pastime for anyone looking to experience the distinctly Japanese visual phenomenon of 'drainspotting'. Some of the finest manhole cover art has been collected by drainspotter extraordinaire, Remo Camerota" - see more photos from his book on the Guardian website.

Does this one suggest a story? -

22 June 2010

"Murky Weather" I and II

These little quilts (7"x10") were inspired by a piece of grey(ish) hand dye. After I used some of it for Conundrum, there was enough left for four more small pieces.

The first, "Endless Rain", got made all in a rush (as you can probably guess from the wobbly stitching; must try harder...) - it still needs the edges finishing -
Next, "Passing Shower" - here's the layout and thread audition -Some of the pieces are removed and the stitching happens in layers. Lots of ends to tie off on the back (but I won't be burying the threads!) -
The final stitching is with invisible thread -

More "Murky Weather"

No.3 in this small series, under construction -Another idea for it -
And first thoughts toward No.4 -
Some of the scraps in my collection are less than an inch square, but useful nonetheless - in fact it's the smallest ones that are often the "bright spark" that animates the piece.

How many elements need to be repeated, or similar, for a series to be cohesive? Is it enough to have a theme, and have all the pieces quite different?