31 December 2018

December's reading

Published in 1993
The Anni Albers exhibition took me to "Women's Work: textile art from the Bauhaus", which has been on my shelves for about 20 years, to look for information on the other (female) weavers trained in the Bauhaus, and their successors: "In exile, Anni Albers and Marli Ehrman educated a new generation of students, who have since become teachers, designers or both".

In the post-1960s upsurge of serious attention to the history of the Bauhaus, the Weaving Workshop has received little attention, says the introduction. "It has had two strikes against it: in the hierarchy of art and design, textiles and women share equally low positions. Moreover, like women, textiles have equally been cast in the supportive role: one notices the chair, but not the cover."

First published in 1944
"Temple spent most of the following morning delving into the files of the Egyptologists' Journal ... This ;monthly publication, published from an obscure address near the ritish Museum, presented a most forbidding appearance to any layman not interested in its particular subject, with its severe buff colour, endless pages of small print and very dull pictures rather indifferently reproduced.
"Somewhat to his surprise, Temple found the two articles by Sir Felix Raybourn countained an occasional flash of whimsical humour to relieve their rather erudite discourse. Both concerned a series of excav ations undertaken by Sir Felix, which, as far as Temple could see, had proved singularly unproductive save for a few ancient weapons in very poor condition, and a vessel containing a strange liquid which had not been analysed. Sir Felix dilated at some length upon the medicines of ancient Egypt and the cures they were reputed to have effected, and thus hecleverly concealed the paucity of the actual results of his expedition. As a writer himself, Temple admired the ingenious manner in which Sir Felix had contrived this little deception."
As someone familiar with the world of academic journals through working as librarian and editor, I found that passage most amusing, and admired Durbridge's dexterity in avoiding the potentially confusing "he" in the second paragraph.

2012; "152 illustrations, 135 in colour"
"More than 75 contemporary artists" (some are pairs of collaborators) choose an influential work by another artist to write about. The book includes these women artists, many of whom were new to me:

Tomma Abts
Eija-Liisa Ahtila - https://www.mariangoodman.com/artists/eija-liisa-ahtila - video works
Eleanor Antin - american performance artist - https://www.moma.org/artists/8183
Vija Celmins
Spartacus [now Monster] Chetwynd - https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/monster-chetwynd-12108 - mixed/cross media
Tacita Dean
Marlene Dumas
Katharina Fritsch - http://whitecube.com/artists/artist/katharina_fritsch - sculpture, including blue rooster on 4th plinth
Susan Hiller
Candida Hoefer - german photographer of empty interiors - http://www.artnet.com/artists/candida-h%C3%B6fer/
Cristina Iglesias
Annette Messager
Beatriz Milhazes - brazilian; painting, drawing, collage - https://whitecube.com/artists/artist/beatriz_milhazes
Cornelia Parker
Sophie Ristelhueber - french photographer of territory and effects of war - https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1996/newphoto12/sophie.ristelhueber.html
Gillian Wearing
Rachel Whiteread

Lots of food for thought here. I could have spent a day copying down great chunks... but it's due back at the library.

Virago Classic "with an introduction by the author"
 It was the cover and the pithy wit of the introduction (2004) that attacted me, in the charity shop, so it came home. Unfortunately the story (1983) wasn't up to the introduction, or the wit had worn thin. Back to the shop it goes.

The Glass Universe By Dava Sobel
Sometimes you buy a book to give as a present, and it doesn't leave your hands. On dipping into Dava Sobell's "The Glass Universe", I was gripped by the storytelling. It's "the hidden history of the women who took the measure of the stars" - they were called "computers" because of the calculations they did; they worked at Harvard's astronomical observatory, and by extension the book is a history of the observatory itself and of developments in astronomy in the decades either side of 1900. Highly recommended, even if you don't know Betelgeuse from Polaris, or what a spectroscope is (a woman is important in that, too).

30 December 2018

Celestial phenomena

 Amazing photo, isn't it! Quite a few things are happening in an icy, pre-hurricane sky. The lamp post blocks out the sun and you can see the sun dogs either side, as well as the circumzenithal arc above ... and a few other things (22 degree halo, 46 degree halo) -

This one is also spectacular, and more straightforward - pillars of artificial light in freezing fog, produced from refraction from ice crystals in the air that are all oriented in the same way -

For explanations of these, and other, things you might see in the sky - rainbows and shadows, for instance - settle down to watch Carolin Crawford's Gresham College lecture on atmospheric phenomena.

Somehow I went to one of her lectures at the Museum of London, while she was Gresham Professor of Astronomy (2011-15) and thereafter went regulary, and I go to other Gresham College lectures as well. It's so good to hear experts talking, not just when they are passionate about their work and subject, but also when they are experts in communicating to the public.

Dr Crawford's other astronomy lectures are on the Gresham College website, along with talks on other topics, including music, history, mathematics, law.

Interestingly, the college appointed its first female professor in 1993, after the college had been in existence for "only" 396 years - Heather Couper, also an astronomer.

29 December 2018

Coming up - Jacket January

It has come to my attention that, winter-wardrobe-wise, I have no cardigans but rather a lot of jackets, and most are black. 

They have come out of the closet -

Of the 12 "indoor jackets", six are not black. Of those, one is velvet, one is 22% stainless steel, and one is more of an outdoor jacket for warmish spring weather.

Out of the closet, too, came skirts and trousers (and jeans) and dresses to wear with the jackets. And from shelves and drawers, sweaters and rollneck tops and a blouse or two... 
It's daunting but so useful to empty the closet now and then - two bags went to the charity shop.
Shelves and drawers are tidied, socks and tights and leggings have been marshalled, and I'm looking forward to a month of playing dress-up ... might even hunt around in the jewellery box ....

28 December 2018

The quiet week

I used to love going to work in the week (or remnant of week) between xmas and new year - the city was quiet, the traffic was minimal, there was always a seat on the tube, and in the early days, lunch hours were long and often spent at the British Museum. 

Without the day job, these days get mixed up - I spent most of yesterday thinking it was Friday, and today (Friday) vaguely aware that it wasn't Saturday but not sure how many more days 2018 has left to run. (Does it matter, without the need to get the year right when writing a cheque? Huh, who does that any more!)

So the days drift by, without anything accomplished. Xmas guests have gone, the thank-you letters - er, emails - have been written, and a day has been spent on the sofa with an escapist novel. I wondered what "the quiet week" had been like in previous years, and looked back through this blog.

2006 - I was grappling with a "lace" knitting pattern (at the moment I'm knitting generic, straightforward - but colourful - socks) -

Call me Penelope

Very slow progress, much ripping out of this pattern - it just won't stick in my mind, like patterns used to. And, unlike in years past, the graphic representation was so confusing that I had to write out the pattern, simple as it is! But my streak of sheer cussedness has kicked in, and I'll stick with this till the wool is used up (another 3 balls to go -- this scarf will be about a metre long).

The book is Barbara Walker's Charted Knitting Designs, published in 1972 - I used it a lot in the 1980s for making up my own combinations of cabled designs, real knitting from scratch -- where are all those sweaters now, the ones knit on the bus to and from work?

2007 - as now in 2018, I was a bit slow in sending out new year's greetings -

Happy New Year

This year I'm a bit slow with getting the New Year cards mailed out. If your smailmail isn't in my address book and you don't get one of these little "origami" books in the post, you may want to fill in your answers under the headings - and perhaps act on them -

Reasons to leap out of bed

Books to read and films to see

Fun things to do without a screen or monitor

Unusual places to go

Nice things to think about

Habits to make, or to break

Interesting people to get in touch with

The folded books are based on Paul Johnson's creative book-making projects for children, and can be found on page 6 here. Some more folded books are shown here - have fun!

2008 - I'd left the day job in November... and was reflecting on one of my breakthrough works, which was sold to a neighbour some years later.

"Blown Away"

In 2001 or so, new to the internet, I joined AlternativeQuiltList, a yahoogroup. This was in the good old days when there was lots of discussion in the discussion groups - that sphere of action now seems to have been taken over by blogs, which has its pros and cons.

Anyway, AQL had a "painting challenge" where you chose an artist and wrote a bit about them on the list, then made a quilt based on their work or something that arose from your research. My choice for the first round was Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun, who painted aristocrats around the time of the French Revolution. More about her another time (maybe).

For the second round I wanted something completely different - so, why not Australian Aboriginal art? I chanced on an online photo of a "desert garden" on the Art and Australia magazine site. It's no longer there, but looked rather like this -
and turned out to be by an artist named Gloria Petyarre. I loved the flow of the shapes, and did a sample, and then pulled out all sorts of yellow, orange, red, brown fabrics, and it evolved into quite a large piece (44 cm x 100 cm).

Each of the seven sections has a different combination of colours. The "leaves" are about the size of a thumbnail, built up in layers to cover the background, and then the different sections are applied to a piece of black fabric -Here are a couple of details -More recently, Gloria Petyarre has been painting Bush Medicine Dreaming -

That's enough for now!

26 December 2018

Riches beyond measure

After pleasant times with all the family, near and far ... a quiet moment on Boxing Day morning, with strong coffee, mini-panettone, and the pleasure of opening presents from friends.
I'm loving the whole kit & caboodle of the almost-too-crowded table, including the magpie teatowel and swanky-hanky from Oz, the disposable furoshiki (with instructions for how to wrap), the spotty pencil case, the art materials from last-century (West) Germany, the lavender bag ... the thoughtful messages on the cards. I'm loving the quiet street, the daytime candles, the music on radio 3, and the second pot of coffee ... and thinking of friends near and far and even, though with sadness, of the dear departed.

So much to think about, so much to be grateful for. 

Well, what now?? Carpe diem; "pay it forward"; be of good cheer ... and, after the inactivity of the past few days, get out in the air for a nice long walk.

25 December 2018

Drawing Tuesday - in abeyance

A report of last week's jolly meeting at Janet K's will be along soon. 

Meanwhile, I send you seasonal greetings from the forest ....

23 December 2018

More rumblings around the home studio aka store room

The hunt for the box of safety pins continued, and some "interesting" things turned up. From a bag of woollens that had been in the freezer for moth treatment, and been forgotten for half a year, the gloves on the right...
 an earlier version of those I bought a month ago, without the fuzzyness inside (and pilling outside) -
Both have "electronic" fingertips - I didn't know that the earlier pair did! - and I hadn't rememered buying it....

Also from a moth-damage-prevention bag, and how on earth could I have forgotten this, my fave boiled-wool jacket with my fave silver pin on it. I wore that jacket all last winter, or (oh dear) was it the winter before...
 And then, a 6th drawing-tuesday sketchbook. I was pleased to have four, then a fifth turned up, and now there are six full sketchbooks, one day a week over four years -
The numbering system needs revising. Dates would be helpful - remember to put the year when you date your work!

22 December 2018

Flashback 2002

In 2002 I tackled the many printed photos of "my work". I'd been in the habit, on getting a processed film back, of writing the date on the back - F92 for February 1992, for instance. The photos got sorted, sooner or later, into categories like travel, friends, museum objects, and my own creations. They were filed in shoeboxes - six of them, holding about a thousand prints each (sounds like a lot, and is a lot!). 

Since starting creative classes in the early 90s I'd been photographing promiscuously, sending off three or four films to be processed every month. So it took a while to go through them, and I didn't go through them all before running out of steam. 

For several weeks I pulled a random photo from the "my work" section of the shoebox, glued it onto a sheet of paper, and wrote down my thoughts about it. Each paper went into a binder, which was eventually organised into sections. By then it was almost bursting -
 Some random pages... I didn't read what I'd written; the joy was in the making. I was trying, at the time, to "find a way forward" and yet not bar myself from other things that looked fun and needed to be engaged with or at least tried.
Dense embroidery on a heart theme, and some larger works that haven't been filed yet

Leaves sewn from squares of metallic organza...

... and the "windblown" sculpture and "Seasons" quilts

In progress: a wall quilt that started as drawings of objects in the V&A,
photocopied and painted with transfer paints, then ironed onto fabric,
which was cut up and interspersed with strips of  silks
In the 1990s and 2000s I went to a lot of classes in a variety of media, usually at City Lit, and mostly loved textiles, sewing, quilting, embroidery. I spent a lot of time dreaming up and starting new projects, but had no real focus. Even in the art foundation course that I attended on retirement, and in the subsequent MA, it was the excitement of the latest bright idea that carried me along. At least I was getting better at bringing the projects to some sort of conclusion!

It's rather a relief to find my making is now limited to just a few things - the fabric pots that become ceramics; drawing; the occasional bookart session; the relaxation of knitting along with a podcast or video. Sewing, quilting, embroidery are having a rest, while reading is getting more of a look-in. In the back of my mind, "one day", a bit of wood-turning ....

21 December 2018

Down memory lane

Coffee in hand, first thing this morning I started looking for the box of safety pins, as they are needed for a temporary transformation. These delights -
 emerged from this area -
The safety pins were not in "the needles and pins drawer", but from the top of the cabinet came the wooden box, which turned out not to be empty. This seemed to be encouragement for continuing the search and seeing what else might be lying forgotten.

Oh my. What a trip down memory lane!

First, though, the set of letters -- just what I need for a little pre-xmas project -- appeared -
 And those slips of paper, hmm... when did I write those? they have a title page of sorts, "Then and Now" and consist of phrases that describe just about any point in my life, things I was writing down (in capital letters!) in attempt to get them out of my head, clear my mind...

Thought-provoking: "too much of the wrong things"; "what's missing"; "pay attention"; "always something else to do"; "keeping busy / moving forward". It has me thinking about what we choose to do in our lives, and what is thrust upon us ... and whether thoughts like this are useful in daily life.

But the search for the safety pins continues, widening a little from the area where I thought they were most likely to be. More things emerge - more wooden boxes, for a start, and other containers that need looking into.
 In the basket is a textile piece that was exhibited in 2000.. I made hundreds of leaves out of metallic organza and strung them together, not all that well it must be said. The leaves went on to be used in a series of wall hangings, including a breakthrough piece exhibited at Art in Nature and then the Festival of Quilts. The box of badly painted pages use paint left over after a day's painting of the Colour Dictionary The tomato pincushion has some very useful large needles stuck into it, and at the back are a cross-stitched hanging made by my mother for her first grandchild (my son) in the late 70s, and a postcard of the textile outcome of a project done in an illustration course in the late 90s.

In another box were the gathered components of a project based on marks arising from overheard conversations -
 Textile magazines that didn't get filed away ...

Part of the "memory balls" project (2012), very fine thread and very light, still attached to its source yarn -
 Some work from the art foundation course, 2009-10 - a drawing project and the "self reflective journal", a printout of posts from this blog -
How far back does this go? It was made in a class (with John Bentley?) at Ormond Road workshops, which closed not long afterwards, in the late 90s perhaps.I printed it on paper and several times on fabric, to be made into cushion covers. It was one of those works that "just happened" - the source image is from a Senufo mud cloth -
 Finally, some little pictures that were taken down during the Great Renovation of 2015-6 -
Grade 2, General Gordon School (Vancouver) 1956

Made at a study day, Museum of Mankind, early 1990s - it was this little
bit of stitching that made me realise how much I'd missed sewing etc

Made in my second class at City Lit, taught by Julia Caprara.
Machine embroidered on soluble fabric, but I didn't wash out the fabric,
I liked it just as it was. That was about 25 years ago
The safety pins have yet to be found, and there are a quite a lot of shelves and corners to look in, but only two days to do it in! (There is a Plan B.)

20 December 2018

Poetry Thursday - Autumn by Denise Gluck

First I found this in the Dec 11, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, which had been passed along to me -
"Once I start writing a poem, I can't stop."
 and this poem was in the same issue ...

Even though we're technically in Winter now, here it is....


The part of life
devoted to contemplation
was at odds with the part
committed to action.
Fall was approaching.
But I remember
it was always approaching
once school ended.
Life, my sister said,
is like a torch passed now
from the body to the mind.
Sadly, she went on, the mind is not
there to receive it.

The sun was setting.
Ah, the torch, she said.
It has gone out, I believe.
Our best hope is that it’s flickering,
fort/da, fort/da, like little Ernst
throwing his toy over the side of his crib
and then pulling it back. It’s too bad,
she said, there are no children here.
We could learn from them, as Freud did.
We would sometimes sit
on benches outside the dining room.
The smell of leaves burning.

Old people and fire, she said.
Not a good thing. They burn their houses down.
How heavy my mind is,
filled with the past.
Is there enough room
for the world to penetrate?
It must go somewhere,
it cannot simply sit on the surface—
Stars gleaming over the water.
The leaves piled, waiting to be lit.
Insight, my sister said.
Now it is here.
But hard to see in the darkness.

You must find your footing
before you put your weight on it.

(via; more poems by Louise Gluck are also available on the New Yorker site, here)

19 December 2018

Woodblock Wednesday - advanced course week 3 of 3

In between sessions I printed up some more mountains to use as bases for the techniques in the final class: 
Tidying up the block

Surprise discovery on last week's print - embossing in the sky area

Ready to roll
 Some hours later...........
Four prints with slightly less dark mountains
And now, the class. These are some of the more advanced techniques (a glossary is here) -
(it uses very little ink!)

(best done with each colour separately)

(this is what happens without nori)

(this needs drier paper)
This time we focussed on two types of bokashi: atenashi ("without a goal") and hakkake ("emphasised edge") and stencils - kappazuri ("printing without a coat").

For hakkake, the (thicker) nori is mixed with the ink (actually, watercolour) and carefully painted onto the required area -

The same sort of painting directly onto the block is used for atenashi - it too requires a minimal use of ink -
Carol had used a mask to protect the central area of her print when she applied stencils -
 To make the stencils, the block is rubbed with graphite

 a shape is cut out, slightly wider than the area to be covered
dots of nori are applied
 ink is dotted on and spread with the brush
circular strokes to start

finish with vertical strokes
 Result! (the green bokashi had been applied earlier) -
My efforts suffer from haste and enthusiasm, as well as inexperience.
You can see the "clouds" cut in the sky area

After the first inking and printing

After the second ...

... and the third
I'm not unhappy with the sky, but the mountain needs "something"...

Let's try another - using the block with the plain sky, and taking ink away to make a moon -
hmm, it didn't work too well...

trying a little atenashi

trying to get rid of the moon-smudge with another
layer of colour ("bodging")
Stencil -- one stencil printed, another ready to go (the colour on the sky has dried by now) -
The entire block was getting dry, so the printing of the mountain on my final sheet of paper didn't work well at all - something to improve at home -
 All nine prints from the three weeks of classes - some are finished, some are in progress -
Great results from everyone - the same motif (mountain and moon) but such different outcomes -

Lots more information on every aspect of Japanese woodblock printing can be found in David Bull's Encyclopedia of Woodblock Printmaking, available online or as an e-book.