Autumn has arrived here in New Zealand, and it is beautiful. This is the tree just outside our house; I don't think I have ever seen such vibrantly coloured leaves.
Walking among the fallen leaves, I can't resist picking up handfuls and throwing them in the air then watching them tumble down like confetti.
Just for fun I decided to collect some of the most brightly coloured specimens and spend the day playing around with them. These are just a few pictures.
First I just spent time looking at them closely, arranging them in different ways.
I took photos and played around, creating layers using GIMP - the free version of Photoshop. It is so easy to experiment in ways that would be so difficult to do without such software.
Then I moved on to working in a sketchbook with acrylic paint, a fine black pen and a craft knife
And finally I stitched a few bundles of leaves together. Whilst they are soft and supple it wasn't too difficult. They are now under a heavy weight to try and keep them flat whilst they dry out. I have no idea what will happen to them!
I have no plans for any of this,but sometimes it is nice to do something for no good reason!
Thanks for reading.
Between finishing my last white horse quilt and making a lot of flower bowls I have been thinking about beginning my new series of work. For quite a long time I have wanted to create a series that was based on 'advice'. It seems to me that no mater how old you are or who you speak to,there is always someone who is only too happy to offer up their two penn'orth!
Some people enjoy people watching, but I like people listening (I think you could also technically call it eavesdropping, but I don't listen to personal stuff, and anyway, the stuff I like to listen to is meant to be heard) so over the past 6 months or so I have been recording some of the more pithy and witty things I have overhear in my day-to-day life. Here are a couple so you get the idea.
I was too busy to do much 'making' in the summer, what with moving house, assisting with the organisation of the Contemporary Quilt Group's 'elements' challenge and a busy teaching schedule that somehow I just couldn't get started. Just before Christmas I did manage to make one new quilt - which unfortunately I can't yet show - so I decided I would wait until the New Year before I would begin. I did, however, start a sketchbook to begin to develop some ideas.
It isn't a pretty sketchbook this time - it is mostly full of text - the quotes I overhear and my thoughts and ideas that spring from them. The few sketches that I have done are all still pretty rough - sometimes just lines and scribbles in response to words. I need to work on these to refine my thought and ideas and get some concrete images or shapes to work with.
The one thing I have decided, however, is that I want to include lots of hand stitching to embellish the surface of the quilts. I want them to be really interesting to look at, so by adding both surface design techniques and stitch I am hoping they will encourage people to come close and take a really good look.
I bought a lovely old book on my last day in South Africa, (a kind of souvenir? )in a second hand book shop that promised that it has every embroidery stitch I will ever need. I'll let you know if it is true!
I have decided to call the series 'Words of Wisdom', and the first quilt I am tackling concerns some advice I heard one teenage girl offer to her friend. I was quite shocked at the bluntness of it at the time - but upon reflection I think it hit the nail on the head. This is what she said;
"Go easy on the makeup; you aren't as ugly as you think."
Using a photograph of my sister to work from, I made a sketch to base the quilt on....
I decided the best way to recreate the face on fabric was with Derwent Inktennse Pencils. I enlarged the sketch and then placed it behind a piece of white cotton and effectively 'traced' the face onto the fabric.
So far, so good! I am very pleased with the way the pencils were able to make such fine and detailed lines on the fabric. I used aloe vera gel to fix the pencil lines, which worked perfectly. I must admit, when I put it into a sink full of water once it was finished I did hold my breath - but not a single part of the black ink ran. Huge relief!
I will post the progress of this quilt in a few weeks time.
Thanks for reading.
I hope that makes sense. It really isn't difficult. The thing tat sometimes goes wrong for me is that I make it too small - so be generous when you add your seam allowances - you can always re-stitch around the edges if it is too big.
If you make one I'd love to see it!
Thanks for reading.
To help me decide on a motif to use I decided to take a walk and look what I found! I have been noticing all kinds of fruit in the hedgerows along the sides of the road these past few weeks - it amazes me that people don't stop and pick a little. So far I have had blackberries (a firm favourite), plums and now apples. There were lots on the floor that were perfect for cooking - so I gathered up my skirt and chose about 20 of the nicest ones to take home.
As well as making a delicious crumble and some apple sauce for the freezer, I saved a few of the mangiest ones and started a new sketchbook. Problem solved!
So far the sketchbook only has a few pages - and is likely to stay that way for a while - but it is the beginning of something that may (or may not) end up as a series of quilts one day. Nevertheless, it will be enjoyable to create and will hopefully give me the opportunity to try out lots ideas, old and new, that I can use in the future.
Here is a flip book of some of the pages.
Why not try a few ideas in a sketchbook of your own?
Thanks for reading.
sketchbook ideas for the new challenge 'elements'
One of my favourite things to do is make a quilt in response to a challenge. I love having something completely new and fresh to think about which gets me out of the routine of whichever quilt series I am working on at the time.
As my current 'challenge' sketchbook has become quite full I decided to start a new one - another treat! I love starting a new sketchbook - all those empty pages waiting to be filled!
The theme 'elements' can be interpreted in so many ways - but I have chosen to explore the chemical elements, in particular those that were known to the alchemists many hundreds of years ago. I have always been interested in science and as soon as I saw the theme my thoughts immediately turned in this direction.
In my last blog post about this challenge I mentioned I would share some of my sketchbook pages - well, here are some of the nicer ones. I have used the paper and fabric I blogged about in that post.
As you can see, I have used lots of symbols and marks used in the 'language' of alchemy. It was a highly secretive science, loved and loathed by the rich and influential. They loved what the alchemists could potentially give them; a universal cure for all ills - effectively promising eternal life, and the ability to turn base metals into gold - effectively promising great wealth to those who knew the secret. But they loathed the alchemists because they feared they would not be able to control them - what would happen if the gold they created fell into the hands of others? The work of the alchemists was therefore a direct threat to the rich, as they risked losing their wealth and power. As a result, many alchemists were tortured for their knowledge and killed to stop others discovering it. As an alchemist it therefore paid to be cautious and clandestine. Hence the symbols, convoluted texts and overall mystery.
I am still working in the sketchbook, messing about with lines, colours, textures and materials. I have already decided on the colours, (dark and mysterious) and technique (monoprinting) I would like to use. Now I just need to pull some more ideas together for the symbols I want to include and how to create them on the quilt surface. More on that in a week or two!
Thanks for reading. I hope I may have inspired you to join the fun and make a quilt for the challenge too. How would you interpret the theme?
The White Horses of Wiltshire
So autumn is here at last. Happily it took a long time to arrive, but the nights are starting to draw in and I thought about putting the heating on last night!
So, whilst I was sat in front of my sewing machine yesterday, busy quilting a mountain, (more on that in another post) I started to think in earnest about a series I have wanted to make for a long time. The White Horses of Wiltshire.
I started my research for this series in the spring, when I went in search of a few of the horses.
Being a mostly rural county of England with lots of beautiful countryside, Wiltshire is characterised by its high chalk downland and wide clay covered valleys. Salisbury Plain is famous as the location of the Stonehenge and to the north you can find Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks. Personally, I find these ancient monuments fascinating, but I am presently even more interested in some not-so ancient marks made on the earth that seem curiously overlooked - the 8 visible white horses scratched into the chalk hillsides.
As a child I remember looking out of the car windows, keeping an eye out for the sight of a white horse on a hillside. I remember being very puzzled by them - they made no sense to me, but they were huge and interesting, and sometimes we even stopped the car and walked the hills to sit on the horse's nose.
Many years on it is still fun, although the steepness of the slope and the slippery chalk is much more of a challenge than it used to be. I was sliding down the nose like crazy in this picture!
Over the next few days I intend to work in my sketchbook, developing my ideas for the series. If the weather is good I also hope to go and walk the hills to a few of them and take some nice photographs to use too.
There is a fantastic website with lots of great information about these hill figures;
http://www.wiltshirewhitehorses.org.uk/ , but apart from that there seems to be very little else. I must say I am rather puzzled. They are even poorly marked with regard to road signs - I think Wiltshire is missing a trick here, as I am sure I can't be the only person who thinks these horses are worth a visit!
So - over the next few days I will post some of my sketchbook pages and share the development of this series as it unfolds. Hopefully I will convince others of the beauty of these curious creatures!
Late night opening on Thursday 2nd October 10.30am to 8.30pm
An exhibition of Contemporary Art Quilts by our members here at Contemporary Quilt West.
Unfolding stories through the use of cloth, paint and dye, hidden within Church Architecture, Old Maps, walks through the landscape and along beaches, Samba Dancing, the Celtic Mythology of Trees
This is a new quilt for my Destination Series of quilts, which will be at the exhibition in Bradford on Avon at the end of this month. Here is a little insight into how it came to be.
Another easy and quick way to add some interest to fabric is to use stencils. You can buy stencil plastic if you want to make very durable stencils to use over and over again, but I don't often reuse my stencils that much so I prefer to use freezer paper or recycled materials.
All you need is a sharp knife, freezer paper, a cutting mat and an image to cut out.
Using a stencil to make a SK8R Boy
Using this very simple idea I made a small 8" x 8" quilt of a boy I saw in our local skate park.
The boy I saw flying through the air was wearing dark trousers and a white T shirt. As he flew through the air I noticed his T shirt blended into the sky, which gave me the idea of leaving out his T shirt all together. This was easy to do with the stencil - I just ignored the T shirt when it came to cutting out the stencil pieces.
For the background I used the paint and roller from the earlier messing about I had done with stencils. This was a bit of a 'use up' quilt. I used Derwent Inktense pencils for the graffiti in the corner as I love the intense colour you can achieve with them.
To make the quilt I started with a small mottled piece of grey hand dyed fabric. In the corner I attempted my version of some of the graffiti I saw at the skate park. It was so vibrant and colourful I thought it would look great in the corner of the quilt and would balance the image of the boy flying through the air.
I really enjoy carving lino blocks and I am now usually able to make one without bleeding too much. I bought some small squares of lino a year or so ago, and then forgot all about them. I then bought some easy-carve type squares and made several nice blocks with them. They cut like butter. If you have the choice - go for these. Softer still are cheap erasers - they are just a bit small - but wow - you could cut these with a spoon (not really, but you get what I mean).
Fast forward to a few days ago. Whilst cleaning out my supplies boxes I found those old lino squares. They are a little dry and crumbly when compared with the smooth as silk easy-carve, but never one to waste things, I decided to carve a block right there and then.
I made a small and simple drawing of 3 cherries, traced it and transferred the outline to my lino square. After carefully cutting it out, this is how it looks.
When it was finished I made a few test prints, tidied up the last few bumps and then printed several pages in my sketchbook. I made a rubbing too.
Next I found two old erasers. One was a little crusty at the end, so I chopped it off. I drew a single cherry and carved it in less than a minute. Wow - these things are easy to cut! Next I drew a little leaf, and quick as a flash, cut away the exterior. Now I had a cherry and a leaf to play with.
Top tips for cutting lino blocks
I hope you give lino cutting a try - it is quick and easy and you can create your own motifs and print with ink, dye, acrylic paint, ink, household bleach, decolourant or anything else you can think of. You can also make rubbings - so you get 2 for one with these!
I have no idea yet what I will do with these small stamps - but watch this space!
Do you work in a sketchbook - or want to start?
How it works
On the first day of each month a theme is announced. This month it is TEA AND COFFEE.You can work in any medium that you like - paint, watercolor, pen & ink, charcoal, collage, marker, crayon or something else and your sketchbook should be a reflection of you and you should feel free to explore and work in any mediums that you want. Here are my first ideas.
The great thing is it is so flexible. There is no minimum or maximum. You just work in your sketchbook as often as you like and create as many pages as you are inspired to. It doesn't even have to be in a sketchbook - Sketchbook Challenge artist Jane LaFazio will be working in single sheets for this challenge and that might be something you might like to try too.
How to share your images
You can post photos of your pages to your own blog if you have one and if you do then leave a link to the posts in the Sketchbook Challenge website in the comments section of the theme post so others can find it. You can also post photos to the specialflickr group that we've set up. You'll find that here .
So - there you have it. I have just created my Flikr account, posted my pictures and am about to put a link to this post on the Sketchbook Challenge website. I am looking forward to seeing what other people do this month!