31 March 2014

Monday miscellany

February, a woodcut by Wharton Esherick (1887-1970, Pennsylvania)


Do penguins need sweaters/jumpers? The short answer is No, but there seems to be a persistent rumour on social media that sweaters are used to "save" oiled birds. People love to donate tangible, helpful things ... and knitters are people too ... but would do better to donate to local charities, says this article.


Luckenwalde library (Berlin) was once an old railway station on an abandoned line - see other stunning libraries at theguardian.com/books/gallery/


Another thought about getting rid of things: " the perniciousness of sentimental items—and sentimentality in general—is far more subtle. If you want to get rid of an item but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons—if it is weighing on you—then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it is time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of everything though." (via)


Remember the tights ball? It's set to go on show at Swiss Cottage Library, as part of its tour around the UK - check for details here. Photo from The Londonist - which also has a post about London's best street art. It doesn't mention the endangered birds painted by ATM -
Jay, painted by ATM (via)


Shoe shopping - spring has arrived!

29 March 2014

JQs mounting up

 "High Horizons", my 8" square journal quilts for 2014, now number four -
The latest is "A Flash of Fishes" - the fish are underneath a layer of grey silk organza, stitched and drawn up into pleats shibori-style, then painted gently with white acrylic paint and released. Also underneath is some synthetic organza with shiny circles glued on - bubbles in the water, stars in the sky... 
The dark area at bottom is a bit of the gold fabric used for three of the fish - the irregular scrap was rescued from someone else's scrapbag.

An irregular scrap figures in what might be the next JQ -
The blue was fused onto a piece of monoprinted calico, then years later it was screen printed with puffa paste. Whew! It's framed up to have the horizon quite high, but I'm not sure how it could "develop" at all. Maybe something for applique will turn up out of the scrapbag?

28 March 2014

New under the needle

Continuing from the museum-maze idea - and from the stitching on this "flat" version of the maze -
combined with the discovery of senninbari, "thousand stitch belts" from WW2 Japan - specifically the back of the stitching on this one -
... which has led to a desire to make french knots in a grid, moving from one to another to make a "maze" on the back.

Rather than printing a grid of circles, as in senninbari (you can see them through the cloth in the example above), I used what was on hand - some printed linen napkins.
the front
the back
thinking ahead to get a "meaningful path" and leave no empty squares
...but if you set out to leave squares empty, other types of mazes become possible ...
dotty, isn't it!
Working title: "Finding your way". These might lead to smaller pieces that become pages in a book.

(This post is linked to Off the Wall Fridays.)

27 March 2014

Ludicrously small results ... not!

The Ludicrously Small Art Gallery
Interior of the gallery
Thanks to contributions from 50 artists, and to visitors to Sara's exhibition purchasing the Ludicrously Small works, the Maudsley Hospital is getting a cheque for £1160, how good is that! "Many a mickle makes a muckle."

My "volcanoes" (submitted as miniature garden sculptures) are now on the mantlepiece of Karen, another gallery participant -

Poetry Thursday - Winter Garden by David Gascoyne

Gascoyne in 1951 (via)

Winter Garden

The season’s anguish, crashing whirlwind, ice,
Have passed, and cleansed the trodden paths,
That silent gardeners have strewn with ash.

The iron circles of the sky,
Are worn away by tempest;
Yet in this garden there is no more strife:
The Winter’s knife is buried in the earth.
Pure music is the cry that tears
The birdless branches in the wind.
No blossom is reborn. The blue
Stare of the pond is blind.

And no one sees
A restless stranger through the morning stray
Across the sodden lawn, whose eyes
Are tired of weeping, in whose breast
A savage sun consumes its hidden day.

– David Gascoyne  (published in Selected Poems, 1994, Enitharon Press)

David Gascoyne (1916-2001) was a Surrealist poet, translator, writer who lived in Paris in the heyday of the movement. “In writing a Surrealist poem you have to clear the mind, start with a blank sheet and let your imagination take over,” he said (quoted here). In the 1936 Surrealist exhibition he had to rescue Dali from the deep-sea diving suit, in which he had given his lecture, by using a spanner.

Changing direction after 1937, Gascoyne's inspiration "was a torrent stifled initially by the Second World War and then by the poet’s use of amphetamines." And depression.

1950 brought a commission from the BBC which resulted in his radiophonic poem Night Thoughts, broadcast in 1955. “It was an experiment in sound, of voices and a choir, the sound of an underground railway and the music specially written by Humphrey Searle... an opus ... speaking to a post-war generation cocooned each night by their firesides listening to the voice of the BBC on the radio. It was his last great work before he descended into two decades of suffering and institutionalisation. Two people rekindled his spirit - Judy Lewis, who became his wife in 1975, and bookseller Alan Clodd. In the next decade he continued writing and "was feted wherever he roamed", in his later years living quietly on the Isle of Wight.
With illustrations by Graham Sutherland
Night Thoughts is also the title of the biography by Robert Fraser.

(The recording of "Winter Garden" here, made in 2000, is " a moving testament to Gascoyne's physical and mental endurance.")

26 March 2014

Portraiture class, final week

What happened to last week's report, you may (or may not) wonder ... well, there's nothing to report. I stayed home and worked on the maze-book project ... and for a wee while on preparing for this week's class, hoping to do some stitching-from-life, spurred on by Olga's post about her own experience.

My rummaging for the dressmaker's wheel had turned up a postcard from which I made a drawing and a stitching -
Against the light, the stitching shows the threads on the back -
Certainly making the drawing before doing the stitching was a big help - the drawing took about an hour, the stitching maybe 10 minutes. Big stitches, as you can see, with one length of thread -
To the final class I took along some opaque fabric and some transparent, and the embroidery hoops, thinking that if you're going to translate three dimensions into two, you don't want the 2D bit (the support) to behave in a 3D way and flop about.

First, though, some not-looking-at-the-paper drawings to re-acquaint myself with the subject, and to try to work out where to start with the stitching and where to take the thread after that -

does this count as a warm-up?
second one on the large piece of sheer, using a thicker thread
different thread again, still on the sheer
(this is the one being photographed in the final pic)
using linen thread - rather too wiry
on voile ... losing the plot a bit ...
not enough time to finish the one on black
the aim was to move from point to point, having threads crossing on the back
People were intrigued with the idea of portraiture via embroidery, so I felt less like a lame duck among the practised painters. And it's great when the model wants a photo!

Although I didn't exactly look forward to each class, I feel I learned enough to make it worthwhile. Even if I didn't take up the challenge of painting, standing in front of an easel for three hours week after week, even if you feel angry or frustrated or bored, does get you drawing and - most important - looking, revising, looking again. Now, I feel less afraid of tackling "drawing faces".

Three's a collection - birds of Brentford

The Guinness toucan began life as a pelican in 1935
The cockerel indicates this was once a Courage pub
The pub closed in 2007 and was converted to housing
Up and down the Ealing Road ... with time to fill ... Two birds (on the same pub) would have been a coincidence, but the flying goose lurking in the shadows made it a collection.

25 March 2014

The Irreducible Minimum

Is this reducible?
Is there an Irreducible Minimum near you? - a pile of papers, fabrics, whatever that, even when rigorously sorted, even when 80% goes in the bin and the rest gets filed, has a few things that defy filing and somehow can't be thrown away ... yet ...

And then there are the out-of-sight lurkers...

Hidden from sight in my various cupboards and rooms are files of papers labelled "To Be Sorted"  (and there's a non-hidden location that I'm all too aware of - more of that later*). These papers comprise notes from long-forgotten workshops, inspirational clippings from art magazines, and goodness knows what else (things that just never managed to get thrown away). 
So ordinary ... and lovely somehow,
the blue with its orange bars
These files of items gathered in pre-internet days should be reducible - or perhaps binned unseen. Notes on any technique you'd want to try (and I want less and less of this) are available online, on websites, on youtube. Inspirational images can be found at the touch of a search button. Many of the books we've so thoughtfully collected can be replaced by ebooks, freeing shelf space.

Freeing - that's what getting rid of things should feel like. I love to see the wood on the corner of my desk, and the bottom of that dumping-ground of a big bowl. And yet ... having that heap of papers is a reminder that "something needs doing" - and it provokes me to do "something more interesting". Perversity, don't you love it? It can lead to all sorts of surprises. Sometimes we need something to push against

The Irreducible Minimum pushes back. It's a bit of conscience. It goads us on to other things, perversity notwithstanding. (Is it perverse not to be organised?)

You could argue that being "perfectly organised" is a waste of time - a waste of opportunity, even. Where will we get juxtaposition, serendipity, surprises, delight, sparks, if there isn't a heap of papers, a scrapbag, to rootle through -- to use your hands, get that tactile (and gestural) input that comes from physical involvement? Tapping a few keys to get instantaneous access isn't the same thing.

The counterpoint to the Irreducible Minimum is the Very Necessities. These all have their place, where they are returned to immediately after use and can be found when needed. This aspect of being organised is a habit (which does however need to be established). It's automatic to gather all the scissors and put them into their flowerpot at the end of the day, and to put the passport in its habitual place after the trip; to connect the phone to its charger at bedtime, and to make sure the stapler is next to the tape dispenser.
(Writing this post is proving very helpful in getting the desk area tidy - extraneous objects must be removed before the photo is taken!)

In my Irreducible Minimum pile - along with reminders of things I fully intend to blog about one day - are, for example, a printout of a 1998 email from an Australian friend about the pre-tense-trip stiff shoulder syndome "experienced by middle class, middle aged, professional women flying with mixed feelings between continents towards family"
- a handout on the elements of composition, with a checklist for your work
- an explanation of S and Z twist in threads, printed on the back of a photocopy of page 6 of the Education and Debate section of BMJ, 31 August 2002
- a page of miscellaneous quotes, including a spanish proverb: God says take what you want and pay for it.
- the leaflet for City of London Tree Trail - a nice walk when the weather gets better and the leaves come out - ah, available as a pdf ... but so much nicer as a leaflet
Would taking photos of these items make it possible to dispose of them? Is mentioning them here enough to allow them to go? Why am I hanging on to them? Do they have some use, or is it just sentiment that keeps them here?

Questions to feed into the subconscious ... and in the meantime, a chance to find homes for the leaflets of upcoming exhibits and events, for artists' books to be looked at another day...

And the remainder of the papers will be put in yet another "to be sorted" folder, to be tucked somewhere and rediscovered in months or years, and opened with a sense of anticipation, not dread ... these things were worth hanging on to for some reason, will they still be intriguing on rediscovery? If not, you and I have permission to simply bin them, leaving ourselves breathing space.
Air routes of the world, a Guardian centrefold
something else of interest from the newspaper
* The non-hidden location mentioned earlier is a former kitchen cabinet which between 1994 and, oh, 2004 or so, collected "what's on" leaflets and all the images harvested from magazines etc that I considered lovely and interesting.

It's in my son's room and for quite a while now he's been gently suggesting I should "deal with it" - a suggestion that has made my heart sink. As soon as the subconscious has pondered the questions for a while, its time will come ... before my next birthday, perhaps?
Reduced (relocated), if only temporarily

24 March 2014

Monday miscellany

Charming quilts by Ulva Ugerup, who lives in Sweden but is part of a Danish group called QuilteQunstnerne. This is "Sisters in Crime" -
See more of Ulva's quilts at www.quiltequnstnerne.dk/ulvaugerup.html - don't miss "The Angels of Wrath" - it's the dark pointy one!


A 16th century book that can be read six ways - see it in action here


"Cosmos" is back - the 1980s documentary series created and hosted by Carl Sagan has been revived, hosted by the director of the American Museum of Natural History's planetarium, and will be shown in 170 countries and 45 languages. Coming soon to a small screen near you - and the old series is available on youtube.

"In the [new] show's first epidsode," says the NY Times digest, "we get to hop along a cosmic calendar in which the 13.8-billion-year history of the universe has been compressed to 365 days, and it's now midnight on New Year's Eve.
"On this scale, the sun was born on August 31, and the dinosaurs died esterday. Everybody you ever heard of lived in the last 14 seconds. Jesus was born five seconds ago ... in the last second we began to do science."

Sartorial note: in the 80s, dress code for television presenters seems to have been suit-and-tie, even for scientists out in the wild -
Sagan presents "Cosmos"
From the trailers, it seems not much has changed -
Tyson presents "Cosmos"


Dartford Crossing (over the lower Thames) - from the top of a bus (via)
It's the Year of the Bus in London - hurrah for those buses! Read 20 things about going around the periphery of London by bus here - the journey took 12 hours, not counting waiting time; it's unlikely you could do it all in one day.
And - "Hurrah for London bus drivers. They rattle repeatedly through the streets, they negotiate awkward traffic situations, they deal with stroppy and bemused passengers, and they still get us to where we want to be in one piece and generally in good time."


More transport - this time the Underground - pix from a little video, Secrets of the Victoria Line. It's the only tube line in London that's completely underground, and each station has different tiles - this is at Blackhorse Road -
and these, at Seven Sisters, are the seven elm trees planted on the green nearby -
Next station along is my local -

The murals were installed a few years after I moved here - I well remember how they brightened up the place. They were designed by Annabel Grey, and her budget included £15,000 for the gold mosaic tiles. See all five here.


So modern! and yet it's 3000 years old! (via)


Navigate your way through Victorian London - "The Museum of London has posted 35 of JohnTallis’s West End elevations on its website, with similar navigation to Google Street View. Shown above, for example, is Rathbone Place. Some of the buildings are linked up to annotations (orange boxes), which provide more details about the business at that address." (More info here, thanks to The Londonist.)


Does simply adding a link near a quote (as above) negate a charge of plagiarism? (I added the quotes and the name of the source in addition to the "here", just to be on the safe side.) Read about why people plagiarise at theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/21/rise-plagiarism-internet-shia-labeouf

Determining ownership of chunks of text, images (especially photographs), logos, etc is no small matter, nor is it black and white. Are these issues killing creativity? They certainly seem to be making people secretive.

 A few short quotes from the article:

"These searches [by online plagiarism checkers] aren't restricted to words; content-based image retrieval – ie, searching for images using the image itself – has been crucial in exposing cases of photographic plagiarism. Nearly every professional photographer has a story about their copyright being violated, but that violation can also blur into plagiaristic acts, where photographers simply pretend that other people's work is theirs. "

"For millennia we have absorbed information, mentally processed it, stored it, retrieved it and passed it on in a slightly altered form and context; now, our unprecedented exposure to that information makes it convenient to take short cuts.  ... There's a lot to take on board about being in the digital world ... it comes with a heck of a lot of issues ... including how we delineate between our own ideas and other people's, whether we should be bothered about it."

"The evils of plagiarism may be drilled into university students, with threats that their work will be checked by that all-seeing-eye of academic fraud, turnitin.com. But... the learning process itself is also being radically reshaped, to a point where the notion of plagiarism is becoming foggier, and not one that's automatically synonymous with cheating. "Students don't need to store information in their brains any more," [Vicky Beeching] says. "I recently read someone refer to the internet as our 'outboard brain', and now it's surely a question of making a difference in the world by applying that pool of resources.""


If you missed the 2014 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize Exhibition (the prize is £15K), you can see all the works at lynnpainterstainersprize.org.uk/exhibition/ and read a considered view of the show here, which includes a video. Below are my favourites.