31 August 2014

Seen on the street - east London

We were on our way to The [stitched] Cornershop
and got distracted by a few things along the way, things that might otherwise be overlooked ...
Sprouting lamp post
Wounded lamp post
Dropped shopping lists to photograph in situ (it's an art project)
Meaningful pavement markings
Cryptic pavement markings
Saw-marked wood crying out to be used artfully
Stump in the middle of a vast grassy sward
Stump plunked into a pockmarked strip of earth beside the canal 
Tower-type constructions that will be part of a tower
The Cornershop was delightful - especially the magazine racks -

Seven months in the stitching ... well done Lucy Sparrow!

30 August 2014

Translating the Iliad

Book 1 took 73 days to stitch (via)
Translating Homer's Iliad is what Silvie Kilgallon is doing - translating its 24 books into stitch. Each greek letter will be a stitch (a cross-stitch), with colours changing throughout the books, starting with red and moving letter by letter so that the final book is blue.

Book 1 is finished, and Book 2 is the longest book. "I need to stitch faster" she says on the project blog, Stitched Iliad.
In progress - any embroiderer would love to see the back (via)
From the Guardian's article:

"I started the project in response to a curator showing me a newly built, empty gallery space and asking me what I would put in it," she said.
"My mind immediately sprang to the Iliad.I'd been researching translation, transmission and reception of text issues, so my immediate question to myself was 'Can I produce a translation of the text that allows an audience of non-classicists to appreciate it without understanding the text itself?' The colour translation was my solution."
The initial red colour scheme was inspired by the war, anger and bloodshed featured in the Iliad, which is believed to have been written between 750 and 650 BC.
Research has shown that cultures generally follow a similar order in developing names for colours. Black, white and red appear first, while blue is one of the last colours to be named.
Kilgallon said this was the reason the project starts in the primal colour of red before transitioning to blue, a colour indicative of a more technologically developed society.
She works on her Iliad in public places, "prompting conversations and interactions with an audience receptive to both the story of the Iliad and the story of the stitched Iliad."

Previously, for a project starting in 2011, she has stitched Book I in various ways, aiming to do it "twenty-four times, each time highlighting a different method of analysing the text. My first translation is a simple letter-for-colour substitution, which each letter of the alphabet being substituted for a different colour. When the Iliad was first written down all those years ago, it would not have had the breathings, accents, spaces, or lower case letters which modern classicists would now be familiar with; thus, my translation contains no spaces, punctuation marks, accents, or breathings. Later translations will focus on syntax, metaphor, location, character, etc. Hopefully when it is finally complete, it will be a work of spectacle, aesthetic beauty and complexity worthy of the title of epic."

For instance, here is that work in progress in March 2012 -
The colours are to do with names of characters and family trees.

Later, doubts set in ..."The aim of the first translation and the aim of all the rest is also different: the first translation dealt with metaphor, and how it reveals but also obscures, it dealt with appreciation and understanding. At the moment, I feel like all the rest are just… infograms. They’re just colour-coded charts showing the frequency of names and places. They’re analysing the text in a way which is supposed to be understandable, which seems almost completely at odds with my intentions in the first piece. ... Why do the same thing 24 times, unless you feel the idea is developing further each time (and I don’t think it will)?"

And so the project changed. I can just about imagine what it will look like when it's finished - amazing, in a word - and perhaps this sample of two of the Book I's, displayed during the Lichfield festival, will help you imagine it too -


Following its recent daily changes, and a severe bout of sanding -
the stripey painting is going to have to languish for a while. A rest, a pause, a break. Hiatus.

I've started something new - same size - for which I had a definite starting point in mind ... but it's the first mark you make that determines the future history, isn't it. The first mark was a blog of copper paint
which needed thinning out and then became rather gestural, to be followed by more of the same, in different ways, for instance, blobs sprayed with water -
and then a brushload of really wet yellow paint drawn across the top and left to run down, with more swashbuckling with a small brush, lots of fun! This is how it stands at the moment -
There is an element of stripeyness ... but the new painting seems to have a mind of its own, how good is that? The stripey one wasn't "talking to me" - I wasn't getting much input on what needed doing next. It was all becoming rather automatic.

At the moment the new one is saying "don't you dare go back to the original idea" - which was this -
Sonia Delaunay, 1928 (a dress fabric?) (via)

29 August 2014

Mixed media

The camera takes a look around the studio...
Top row: a layer of yellow paint (inspired by Cy Twombley's Lepanto); lot of biro marks make the paper ripple; snips of fabric (too small for anything else) knotted and strung
Bottom row:  ink and water make a notebook ripple; discharge paste screened onto cotton velvet; pressed flowers bondawebbed under organza

Top row: colour catchers; an inky accident in a Hungarian felt bag; threads - paper, silk, cotton, linen
Bottom row: writing implements, and others, recently used; cutting implements; fabric sorted in drawers by colour

Top row: more fabric behind glass; prints and drawings piled in chronological order; dyeing materials
Bottom row: unused small sketchbooks; pads and loose papers; neglected pens

The "neglected pens" that got this train of thought going are, or rather were, gathering dust in a corner of a cupboard. Thinking to throw out the felt pens - surely they'd be dried out by now, I've had them for 20 years - I also mused that they were not a drawing implement I ever choose to use ... why? because of the dull, flat line they make, and the unwanted darkening of colour when they overlap. But had I explored their mark-making possibilities - of course not.

A few minutes with a pad of scrap paper found that most of the pens were still alive -
As for the mark-making, some variables are: how the pen is held (angle to paper; firmly close to point or loosely at end); direction of line; spacing of lines; pressure on paper; speed of pen across paper. Slowing down was a revelation (I tend to want to Get It Done Quickly).

That was fun, and I really liked the "loose" marks and parallel lines, but I still can't imagine wanting to use felt-tip pens for a project. Hmm, never say never...

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

28 August 2014

Poetry Thursday - Pathology of Colours by Dannie Abse

Bruise colours (via)

Pathology of Colours

I know the colour rose, and it is lovely,
but not when it ripens in a tumour;
and healing greens, leaves and grass, so springlike,
in limbs that fester are not springlike.

I have seen red-blue tinged with hirsute mauve
in the plum-skin face of a suicide.
I have seen white, china white almost, stare
from behind the smashed windscreen of a car.

And the criminal, multi-coloured flash
of an H-bomb is no more beautiful
than an autopsy when the belly's opened -
to show cathedral windows never opened.

So in the simple blessing of a rainbow,
in the bevelled edge of a sunlit mirror,
I have seen, visible, Death's artifact
like a soldier's ribbon on a tunic tacked.

- Dannie Abse (via /litmed.med.nyu.edul, where you can listen to him reading the poem.

(Also on that site he says: "I felt that poetry shouldn't be an escape from reality, but rather an immersion into reality, and part of my reality was, indeed, my hospital life at the time. And so I became prepared to write poems which had medical undertones. Louis Pasteur once said (talking of scientific inspiration), 'Chance favors the prepared mind,' and my mind was prepared to write poems that were medically colored. In the mid-60's, I wrote a poem called 'Pathology of Colours,' and it proved to be one of a number that I've written over the years which are medically thematic.")

Dannie Abse is regarded as one of the most important Welsh writers of the 20th century. While a medical student, he once met Dylan Thomas - an influence on much of his early work. He wrote novels as well as poetry, and his connection with Wales is interesting - a non-Welsh-speaking Jew, he has lived most of his life in London, and been published there. He was born in Cardiff in 1923 and after a spell at Cardiff University, went to London in 1943 to start his medical training - and "took to the café society in Swiss Cottage like a duck to water."

He has written or edited 16 or more books of poetry - most recently "Speak, Old Parrot" (2013), and also several novels, among which The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas (2002) was longlisted for the Booker Prize.

27 August 2014


My photo of Jeanne Lanvin's bedroom (designed by Albert-Armand Rateau, completed 1928 and now in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris) doesn't do it justice - fortunately there are more and better photos available online - and of the wonderful bathroom too.
The shade of cornflower blue is known as Lanvin Blue and is said to be inspired by the sky in a Fra Angelico fresco. The collaboration with Rateau for redesign of her apartment, homes, and business began in 1922.

Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) - a milliner who married an Italian nobleman - made beautiful dresses for her daughter and from this evolved a famous Paris fashion house - indeed, an empire. She was formally recognized as a couturiere in 1909, and became one of the most influential designers of the 1920s and 30s, using intricate trimmings, virtuoso embroidery, and beads in clear, light, floral colours.

She is also well known for the perfumes My Sin and Arpège, developed in 1925 and 1927 - Rateau designed the bottle for Arpège, which was designed for Lanvin's daughter and presented to her on her 30th birthday.
The illustration on the bottle is by Paul Iribe, rendered in 1907, of Jeanne and Marguerite.

26 August 2014

Wet weekend

Monday's unrelenting rain put a bit of a damper on Notting Hill Carnival, but in Kensal Rise we could still hear some of the music rumbling in the distance throughout the day. And it was quite amusing to watch the traffic speeding through the lake that had formed outside -

The drain simply can't cope, even with less water. By morning it had shrunk somewhat -
Being trapped indoors made it imperative to do something "useful" - while dusting and hoovering the weekend studio I managed to throw out a few old, unneccesary, bothersome things - and found a few bits to salvage, including this, which only needed a few more borders to get it to journal quilt size -
which, now that it's 8"x8", doesn't quite work as a "High Horizons" quiltlet. Hmm, what to do with it next ... foiling? applique? hand stitch? Let's face it, some things end up looking like a bunch of scraps thrown together - this seems destined for the interior of a potholder!!

Perhaps this accumulation of scraps has more chance of success -
It's waiting for next weekend to be sewn together. Joining the scraps of wadding was a simple pleasure, and now there's enough for three more JQs. (Old towels and sweaters make good wadding for JQs too.)

Handstitching is a lovely thing to do on a wet weekend, listening to Radio 4 or catching up on the iplayer - I got on with this
which is mostly linen threads, the rows made either "over and over" or "back and forth" - each has a different feel during the stitching and then later when you run your hands over the piece. It was inspired by seeing the work of Gillian Lavery online - that brought on the itch to stitch, and it feels wonderful to be filling this cloth in this simple way, waiting to see what evolves from choices and accidents.

Also under the needle, a small double-sided piece - again to see what happens and what changes can be made to something prosaic -

On (in?) a sub

The Ocelot, a Cold War submarine - 90m long

Not easy to move around!

It would have been crowded - 60 or so men aboard

Equipped for surveillance duties

The periscope-thingy

...and what you see through it (Chatham Historic Dockyard)

Engine room - not as claustrophobic as I'd feared, but the 15-minute walkthrough was enough for me.