I have made several quilts on the theme of Freedom and Liberty over the past few years and have just completed another for the group 12 by the Dozen. I didn't set out with that intention, but this recurring theme emerged from my research into the work of the textile artist Jean Lurçat. (Find out more about Lurçat and his work here.) Initially I was not drawn to his work at all - at first glance it appeared to me to be chaotic and confusing - too much to take in. But after some (slow) research I began understand what I saw now I like it very much.
Here is a very small selection of some of his tapestries to give you a flavour of his work ...
I have also created a Pinterest board with lots more of Lurçat's work, including his paintings and ceramics. Click here to see the board.
If, like me, you are new to Lurçat's work, one of the first things to know is that much of his work is in tapestry, a somewhat unconventional medium in modern times.
From Medieval times, and up until around the end of the 15th Century, the artistry of tapestry was highly prized. Enormous tapestries graced the walls of great buildings, forming part of the architecture they decorated. They served to keep the place warm as well as conveying messages and having their own decorative features. However, from the 16th Century and the beginnings of the Renaissence, painting and sculpture pushed out other forms of art and tapestry came to be regarded as somewhat 'oldschool'. If tapestry was to survive it needed to look more like a painting than a traditional tapestry, The result was that in 1773 the French state run Gobelins weaving works raised the dye palette of wool for tapestry from 20 (twenty) to an incredible 14,400 possible tones. Hence, the cost of producing wool in this many variations went through the roof and Gobelins reached the point where they were having to dye 1,456 pounds of wool swatch to get 44 pounds of tapestry. It was untennable; the upshot of this was that the price of creating a tapestry (that wasn't exactly on trend anyway) became impossibly huge and largescale tapestry production all but stopped.
In around 1915 Jean Lurçat began exploring his art. One of the pieces of art that captivated him was the incredible piece of Medieval art known as The Apocalypse Tapestry (click here to find out more). It was this set of tapestries which set him on the path to becoming one of the modern day artists (along with William Morris) aclaimed for their role in the revival of contemporary tapestry.
The issue of producing so many different colours to create tapestries led Lurçat to conclude "you do not get the subtleties of Bonnard even with 14,400 tones (of wool)" After much thought he set about devising a tapestry colour palette using a "scale of pre-arranged colour" that would hopefully bring tapestry creation back into the realms of feasability.
His success in this quest means that all tapestry now, more or less, follows Lurçat's system of limitation of colours. He used just 5 shades each of red, blue, grey and ochre, four shades of green and six of yellow plus one black and one white, making thirty-two in all; quite a difference from 14,400!
To satisfy my own curiosity, I decided to make a colour study of my own using Lurçat's work. By looking closely at his work I was able to see how cleverly he used colour to make his work almost 'glow'. I then used it to create my own collction of fabrics using what I discovered.
Lurçat's Design Process
Whilst researching Lurçat's work online I also came across a few images of him designing his enormous tapestries at his atelier. Like many people I find it very interesting to see an artist's process. It also helped me to understand the scale of his work.
A few other interesting facts:
The weaver of Lurçat's designs (he was not a maker himself) had to follow strict design guidelines and was to have absolutely no artistic freedom in the creation of the piece. Once Lurçat presented his design, the 'carton' (translated into English as 'cartoon' which is the drawn 'pattern' ) was to be faithfully recreated to achieve exactly what Lurçat had envisioned as the end a result. In essence, it was a non-interpretive code in which the weaver would have no question as to what the designer required.
Additionally, Lurçat mades it very clear that the idea of fashioning a tapestry after a painting, especially one that had originally been painted with no intention of becoming a tapestry, was misrepresentative and disrespectful to the art form. (He would probably, therefore, not be happy about what I did next!)
Lastly, he was adamant that each tapestry should be embedded with content; it should thrive as a partner to architecture and therefore be invariably large scale and designed and thought of as being forever connected to the architecture it was designed for. "I want to remind you that Tapestry knew its proudest moments in a time when a style of extremely grandiose architecture reigned supreme".
For my small quilt (sorry M. Lurçat) I chose several recurring motifs from his work: the sun medallion, butterflies and cockerel. Many of his artworks, tapestries as well as his pottery, have variations of these motifs deeply embedded into their narative. More specifically I was attracted to two of his works that focus on the theme of Liberty: one he created in 1943 and the second in 1948 (see below). They were his response to a poem of the same name, written by another famous French artist, Paul Eluard, (You can read the poem in English and French here.)
I am sure it is a coincidence, but this unusually vibrant yellow colour is very similar to that which I used in my two previous quilts focussing on Liberty - perhaps that is what made me notice them?
I find these two tapestries striking - so much so I wanted to recreate my own 'Liberty' piece along similar lines. Using fused applique pices from the fabric selection I made earlier I created a medallion motif and sectioned it in a similar way to Lurçat.
This is my interpretation of Lurçat's 'Liberte'; my newest version of 'Freedom' using motifs familiar to dwellers of the 21st century: White poppies symbolising pacifism, an olive brach of peace and butterflies, free to go where they choose. The sun's rays represent optimism for a brighter future, but the barbed wire, still lingering, is ready to spread its pain. And at the top, instead of Lurçat's French Cockerel I have placed a dove, flying high over a rising sun.
It is a bit of a different quilt for me - but I have really enjoyed finding out more about this quite different artist and trying something new. I feel it may be the beginning of something. I'm not quite sure what yet, but time will tell.
As a final thought, earlier this summer I was very kindly taken by my friend Liz to the Grayson Perry exhibition in Bristol. He too is working in tapestry on a grand scale, telling contemporary stories. Whilst I thought they were impressive, they did not have a great effect on me at the time. It is only now I am seeing them from a new perspective.
Thanks for reading.
Whilst at Festival of Quilts this summer myself and a few other quilting friends met two lovely French ladies who were looking to make new friendships as well as new quilts. After a long chat we made a loose agreement to join together to form a group making art quilts just for pleasure - no competitions, no serious agendas - just fun.
We are: Ana, Denise, Fran, Lydie, Stephanie and Claire and our group is called Six Dames. We thought it would make a nice change to be able to set up a bilingual blog to share our work which you can find by clicking here or at the following address: sixdames.blogspot.com/
We have yet to capture a photograph of all six of us together, but until we do, here are 4 of us - looking (unintentionally) very well co-ordinated.
Our aim is simple; to each make one small quilt every 3 months and share our progress and thoughts along the way via our blog. To inspire us we decided that we would each take a turn to find an interesting photograph to use as a prompt for our work.
And this is the first.........................
The first photo was chosen by me, and finding just the right photo wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Like most people these days I have hundreds, if not thousands of photos in my camera, on my phone or on my social media accounts. But choosing one that I thought would appeal to the other members was a difficult task. In the end I chose this one which I took earlier this year. I'm not going to tell you where - see if you can work it out!
Initially I discounted it because of those boots at the top of the image - but the more I looked at it, the more they became part of the reason I finally selected it. They are pretty swanky boots by the way - zoom in and you will see what I mean. I wish I had paid more attention to what the rest of the owner looked like.
For my starting point I decided to focus on the pavement. HEXAGONS! I must be nuts. Under normal circumstances I would run a mile from anything with a regular side and corner, let alone 6 of them. But I have decided to face my nemesis and see what I can do with the damn things.
To ease my way in I went for something familiar and made a lino cut tile that is similar to those little pavement cobbles. In fact, I made a few and chose my favourite.
But what to do with them that is different from the usual?
I played about with paper structures and particularly liked making these little folded pouches - known as TATOS to Japanese origami folders. After I made a couple and got the hang of it I tried making them from different fabrics. The best by far were made with some scraps of organdie fabric. It has just the right amount of crispness to hold a fold.
Then I printed on them using the lino cut block. The design is similar to that on the original paving cobbles.
I also used the print block to make some clay tiles. That was really fun!
And I love them! I added some mica powder to the surface of the tiles to highlight the relief. I think I'm going to hang some of them on my Christmas tree, but I am also interested in whether I can incorporate a few into my quilt. Not sure how just yet, but I'm working on it!
So this is the stage I am at, I'm not sure how I am going proceed as I am still trying to come up with something different.
Thanks for reading!
I have had a variety of projects on the go for quite a while, all waiting their turn to be completed. I also have a 2 new smaller projects waiting in the wings too, but I am determined to finish these old ones first - I can't just keep adding to the piles!
The biggest of my 'things to finish' was a quilt for the SAQA call for entry entitled 'Forced to Flee'. The deadline for that was October 31st, so that really has been a priority. The quilt I made for this has been evolving for several months and from the start I knew how I wanted to structure the imagery. I have added a few close up photos of the quilt below.
After a lot of thought I have decided to call it 'The Lucky Ones?' My aim is to relate the story of those who have been forced to flee from the war ravaged country of Syria and ask the viewer to ponder who the lucky ones are in this terrible story. It is quite a large quilt for me, measuring almost 70" x 30" and has a similar style to a quilt I made several years ago, called Forced Removal. (Click here to find out more about that quilt). I will hear by mid December whether I have been successful, so it is wait and see time now. More information about the quilt can be seen on my website by clicking here.
Another of the things I have been working on is developing my lino printing knowledge on a short course at Plymouth College of Art. They run a whole range of excellent courses for members of the public allowing people to take advantage of the studios, equipment and tutors available. One of my favourite prints is below.
I also have been having some fun with my mum, learning how to needle felt - in particular some very cute little felted animals. We both did a workshop at the lovely shop, Thimblestitch @ Zoe's in Honiton. We both had a great time with Carla Taylor, from The Mousehole Woolery. If you like felting I can highly recommend her workshops.
Here are our two cuties squashed into a dome. The fox is my mum's and the hare is mine.
Lastly, I have been working like mad to get the 12" x 12" quilts finished for the annual Midsomer Quilting exhibition. I posted them off to De at the shop last week and I am really excited to see this year's exhibition. The theme is 'Think of a Number' and luckily I have already had a few sneaky peeks at some of the entries. It is going to be, as Chris would say, 'The best one yet!'.
The exhibition of the quilts (all made by people with some connection to the shop) runs every day, 10 am ‘til 4pm from Friday November 30 until Saturday December 22. Many will be up for secret auction with the proceeds being kindly donated, as usual, to Dorothy House Hospice.
I chose to make 12 quilts - one for each of the 'days' from the song 'The 12 Days of Christmas' and De and I have decided to offer this as a 'Block of the Month' programme next year. Each month De will be mailing out the pattern, fabric and embellishments to make one of the blocks to anyone who wishes to join the fun. There will also be a secret Facebook group with videos, support, chat, tips, tricks and photos for anyone who joins in. And for each person that joins the fun a donation of £5 will also be made to Dorothy House. If you want to dye your own fabric to use to make the quilts I will be coming to Midsomer Quilting on 12th January (how appropriate!) to run a workshop where you will do just that.
Obviously I don't want to spoil the surprise, so there is no picture of the finished quilts, but just to whet your appetite, here is a little peep! Try and guess which is which.
For more information please contact De at the shop,
or on Tel: 01761 239333
or by email at: De@midsomerq.com
I'll see you there!
Thanks for reading.
My apologies for the lengthy gap between this and my previous post. I hope to be back on track now.
Following on once again from my previous blog, this is the third of my 16 inch square quilts made in my 'Works inspired by artists' series for the group '12 by the Dozen'. This time the artist was chosen by Uta Lenk and she selected Gabriele Münter, a German expressionist painter who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. Münter studied with the painter Wassily Kandinsky and was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter.
Discover more about Münter by clicking here.
Initially I didn't care for her style very much, but as I got to know it better I have changed my mind and find her work particularly striking. You can get a flavour of her work from the images below and if you would like to see a lot more then I created a Pinterest board where I have gathered together a collection of her work which you can see by clicking here.
A small selection of the work of Gabriele Münter, (1877 - 1962)
For my third quilt in this challenge I decided to focus on one of the techniques Münter spent time exploring; that of woodcut/linocut printing.
In 1903 her tutor, Wassily Kandinsky encouraged her to experiment with woodcutting. During their joint stay in Paris in 1906/7, Münter studied cutting and printing techniques and created about one quarter of her entire printed oeuvre during these months, not to mention numerous colour versions of each motif (so Andy Warhol wasn't so original after all!). Many of these early wood and linocuts were portraits or park and street scenes which demonstrate her talent for reducing motifs to simple outlines and flat areas of colour. It is these design elements that I decided to focus on for my next piece of work.
Lino printing is a particular favourite technique of mine, although I have only ever worked on a small scale prints until now.
Because the sharply defined lines of a lino cut block somewhat restrict the use of very subtle shading, I was forced to focus only on colour and value; light and shadow.
The 3 works above are those I used as the inspiration for my print block.
None of these blocks is particularly complex, each a single block depicting a person with whom she was closely acquainted.
Gabriele Münter, Aurelie, 1906, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, © 2013 Gabriele Münter/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/ LACMA
For my attempt at a piece in a similar style I drew then scanned the head and shoulders of a young boy. Uta and I are working on a shared project where we try to draw a face every day and share our progress. (Uta is far more diligent than me - I really need to try and keep up!) It has proven to be a very rewarding project and I have learned a lot about how to capture the essence of a portrait from the daily practice.
I used one of the images I had previously drawn of a young boy to develop for my lino block. His name is Joseph.
To create the print block it was necessary to decide the positive and negative print areas then reverse the image.
Using the printed image to create a small quilted panel was the next step.
Looking at Münter's work I decided to print the image onto a piece of dyed cloth then added some additional colour and shading with Derwent Inktense pencils. I did not want to add any further line to the image so I quilted only around the printed marks.
And this is the finished panel, measuring 16" x 16", mounted on stretcher bars.
My collection of portraits is growing, and since I finished this one I have taken a short course to learn more about printed portraiture and am developing a new multiple block print of another person. I hope to share that piece soon.
The next artist in the '12 by the Dozen' challenge has now been chosen, this time by Jinnie Robisson and the artist is Jean Lurçat. His techniques and ubject matter are something quite different from the previous artists. He was a painter, ceramist and tapestry designer, creating the cartoons for hundreds of tapestries. He oversaw the weaving process and was instrumental in reviving the tapestry industy in Aubusson, France.
Looking at his work I have absolutely no idea of how I will interpret it yet - so lots to think about!
Thanks for reading.
Following on from my last blog, this is the second of my 16 inch square quilts made in my 'Works inspired by artists' series for the group '12 by the Dozen'. This time the artist chosen was Wilhelmina Barnes Graham, chosen by Linda Bilsborrow, and what a great choice it was. You can find out more about her by clicking here.
Below is a tiny taste of her work.
The inspiration for this next quilt comes from my study of her drawings, and in particular, her 'Line' series. One of my favourites is titled 'Music of the Sea' which you can see by clicking here. I find the simplicity of this work fascinating. Simply by the repeated use of hundreds of thin lines Barnes-Graham was able to capture enormous energy and movement in her drawings and is a perfect example of 'rhythm' in design terms. That is what I wanted to explore.
As I wanted to create a portrait again I chose a sketch I made several years ago of a man I once knew named Paul.
Taking this drawing as a starting point I drew several new versions of Paul's face, concentrating on using only thin lines to mark the contours of the face. The progression below shows what I did. I deliberately did not use as many lines as Barnes-Graham as I wanted to leave space to add more lines with the quilting stitches later. I must say, it does remind me of a map!
Once I was happy with the drawing I made a series of mono prints by reversing the image and drawing onto the back of a piece of white cotton fabric that was laid onto a sheet of glass covered in oil based printing ink. It is a technique I love to use and have described several times in the past. (Click here for a recent blog post describing the technique)
As I had a lot of ink on the plate I decided to make several prints. One of the early prints was especially dark and the lines lost much of their definition (too much wet ink on the printing plate) so I ended up turning the fabric over and using the back of the print which was much more subtle.
Once the ink was fully dry (about 4 days) I used Markal oilsticks and a dry toothbrush to add hints of colour to the fabric. I used turquoise, Wedgewood blue and muddy grey colours, similar to those Barnes-Graham used in 'Sea Movement' (see image below; click here for more details of this piece) Once it was dry (another few days) I free motion quilted further thin lines with black thread, echoing and enhancing the lines already in the drawing .
He looks quite a sombre old man, don't you think? I am not entirely happy with the bottom left corner of the piece, I think I got it wrong when I added that diagonal line coming up from his chin area. I also don't like the dark grey shading I added in the very bottom left corner, continuing from his jersey. In an attempt to understand better what I had done I decided to make a second piece to address the problems, which you can see below.
It is mostly similar, but the colours are a little more vibtant, the lines thinner and less dark and the bottom left corner has been tidied up, I think it is a much better version - and he doesn't look so glum either.
I am happy to say that 'Old Man II' is currently on his way to New Zealand (via South Africa) to be part of an exhibition by members of '12 by the Dozen' at the National Quilt Symposium in Auckland, 1st to 6th October 2019. Further details can be found by clicking here.
Many thanks to Rosemary Rush for organising this fabulous opportunity for us.
For my next blog post I will share the third and latest quilt I have made, inspired by the work of German artist, Gabrielle Münter, chosen by Uta Lenk.
Thanks for reading.
At the end of last year I was kindly invited to join a group of fellow quilt artists known as 12 by the Dozen. It is co-ordinated by the lovely Hilary Gooding whom I have got to know over the past few years. I first met Hillary when I was assisting with the annual quilt challenge run by the Contemporary Quilt Group of the British Guild, and our distant friendship has grown from there.
Other members of 'The Twelve' are:
It is a real pleasure to be able to get to know all these people a little better and to share our ideas and our work. You can find out more about the group by clicking here.
The current brief for the quilts we make is 'Works inspired by artists: 16" square'. It is a format I have really taken to as there is enough 'space' to work in, allowing for different ideas to take shape, but not so huge as to take a long time to create. Before I started the first quilt I decided to set myself a few additional guidelines. Wherever possible I want to try and create a portrait as my response to the artist selected; (so far so good on that front). I have decided to mount all my finished pieces onto stretcher bars and set into floater frames so that I might have a nice collection to hang in an exhibition in the future.
So far I have made two quilts and am about to complete my third.
For my first quilt (and the 8th in this series as I am a late comer to this round of quilts) was inspired by the Danish artist Vilhelm Lundstrøm - who was chosen by Mai-Britt Axelsen. He was an artist previously unknown to me, so another bonus. Below are a few images to give you a flavour of his work.
For my quilt I chose the image on the bottom right of the collection above - called 'Seated Nude' and I focused just on her face. (Narrowing down which of his works to use was greatly helped by my earlier decision to try and focus on portraits.)
Lundstrøm used clear, bright shapes and just a few bold colours to create his nude, so I decided to isolate the shapes and colours he used with the free shareware photo editing software known as Gimp. The results are quite interesting and could possible lead on to a small series focusing on colour in their own right.
I looked through my box of hand dyed fabrics and found a selection that looked to be suitable.
Using Lundstrøm's original and the manipulated photos as a guide, I drew the face freehand and isolated the boldest shapes I could identify . I then enlarged it so I could use the shapes as a pattern for the fabrics. The photo below also shows the threads I chose to match the fabrics as I didn't want any additional thread lines to be particularly visible.
I traced the enlarged shapes onto bondaweb and then fused them to the back of the fabrics. The bondaweb stops the raw edges of the fabric from fraying when they are cut out, so I was able to collage all the pieces together directly onto the wadding to create the face. The image below shows how the collaged pieces were put together.
I then added simple free motion quilting to hold the pieces down, echoing the shapes.
And here she is, my version of the face of 'Seated Nude', rendered in fabric - with a little added Markal oilstick paint to give the impression of the smudged areas on the original.
Creating this simple quilt was an exercise in focusing on both colour and shape in this composition and it was very enjoyable to be able to make my first piece with the group. I have now mounted it onto stretcher bars and will make a floater frame to place it in. When I have a few of them finished I will share some more photos.
For my next blog post I will share the next artist, Wilhelmina Barnes Graham, and my interpretation of one of her drawings, this time carefully examining how she used line in her compositions.
Thanks for reading.
As you may have noticed, many of the quilts I make can be about subjects that are a bit intense. The subjects are always important to me and I research them carefully before I start work, but it can be a bit depressing. So to lighten the mood it is nice to mix things up a bit and make something fun and lighthearted too.
Each year I make one or more small quilts for the Midsomer Quilting 12 x 12 challenge. You can read more about it here. Their challenge is open to anyone with some sort of link to the shop and an exhibition of the quilts submitted happens at the shop in Chilcompton, UK, in December. It gets better and better each year and many of the quilts are available to buy in a secret auction, the proceedes of which are given to a local hospice known as Dorothy House.
The theme this year is 'Think of a number'. After a bit of thought I have decided to go big this time and have designed 12 quilts as my contributuion. My mum also gets involved each year and in support of the 'plan' she is making 12 quilts too, putting her personal twist on the designs, but she is making them all by hand!
12 quilts....have you figured it out yet?
Of course, The 12 days of Christmas.
As I chatted with my mum about it we both thought the designs could make a great project for a group, a family or just one person to work on over the course of a year and end up being a lovely addition to the Christmas decorations. And thus the idea of a block of the month project was born.
Whilst I was up at Midsomer Quilting this past weekend teaching the second part of the Starry Night workshop I spoke to De, Chris, Birgitta and a few of the customers to see what they thought. The upshot is - it is on!
Just to give you a little sneeky peek of what they will be like, here are a few little snippets.
De and I haven't quite worked it all out yet - in fact, the quilts haven't all even been made yet, but we both envisage it working something like this:
Starting in January 2019 the pattern, fabrics and full instructions for one 12 inch quilt block will be sent to all participants. 27 days later the next you will receive the next instalment, so by the end of November 2019 you should have a completed wall-hanging / quilt/ set of 12 inch squares ready to decorate your home for Christmas. (There is no need to visit the shop to be part of the Block of the Month, making it great for those, like me, who live far away!)
The nice thing about the designs is that the blocks can be made using a variety of different techniques (which you choose is up to you); raw edge applique, traditional needle turn applique, free motion embroidery (think Doodle Birds/ Doodle Dolls) or even hand embroidered stitcheries. You could even mix and match!
To try and make things a little more interesting I think it would be nice if we could set up a closed private Facebook group for participants where we can share our progress, ask questions and generally have a natter about the project as it develops. Of course, if you are not a Facebook person then there is no need to worry about this - it is just an 'extra'.
I also hope to be able to make some short videos showing some of the different techniques used - so watch this space for that (I need to learn how to do it first - but January is ages away!!)
Finally, I am thinking I might like to offer a half day workshop for anyone who would like to learn how to hand dye the fabric you use for the project. It is just an idea at present as I am not sure if enough people would be interested to make it viable - but if you are then please do let De at Midsomer Quilting know.
The team at MQ and I will be selecting a variety of fabrics for the projects - and these will be available as part of the project.
I hope you like the idea - if you do and you are interested in finding out more (no commitment yet) then please get in touch with De at Midsommer Quilting (details below) and we will let you know once we have things worked out a little more clearly.
Thanks for reading.
Selected works from the SAQA exhibition 'Textile Posters' : currently featuring in Quilting Arts Magazine
I had a lovely surprise yesterday morning. As I ate my breakfast and browsed through my news feed I saw a post from fellow SAQA member Heather Pregger, http://www.heatherquiltz.com/ in which she mentioned that her quilt 'VOLCANO' features in the August/September edition of Quilting Arts magazine. Her fabulous quilt, along with 23 others is part of the SAQA exhibition Textile Posters and I am very proud to say that my quilt '3 Wise Words' is one of those quilts selected by the juror, Joseph Lupo, and also features in the magazine. Thanks for passing on the good news Heather!.
I am even more pleased that the message contained in the quilt is being spread just a little bit further.
The cover of the August/September edition of Quilting Arts features Cat Larrea's fabulous quilt named 'Shiprock' and you can see images of all 24 of the posters im the exhibit on the SAQA website by clicking here.
I wrote a blog post about the '3 Wise Words' quilt back in February 2017 when I found out it had been selected for the exhibition and you can read that post by clicking here.
The quilt features a BIG water tap and the words: 'refill, not landfill'. Back in early 2017 the whole issue of plastic waste, and in particular single use water bottles was beginning to be widely discussed and more recently we frequently see the most terrible photographs of mountains of plastic bottles washed up on beaches, floating around in the oceans and inside the stomach's of dead sea animals. It really is intolerable.
Here are a few more images from the sketchbook that I used in the planning of the quilt that I thought might be interesting to share. My sketchbooks are my way of making sense of ideas, seeing what might work and keeping things organised; I hope you enjoy the glimpse.
The sketchbook also serves as a nice place to store the left over bits and pieces from the quilt - stencils, lino print blocks, unused fabrics etc. Earlier this year I had a request to make another quilt for someone (on a different theme) and I was able to go back to that particular sketchbook and 'raid' it for leftovers - and was able to create and ship a brand new quilt within a week. I was amazed (and so was she!)
A very high quality catalogue to accompany the exhibition is still available on the SAQA website by clicking here.
Thanks for reading.
Whilst lino printing last week I had a lot of ink rolled out on the glass plate. Not wanting to let it go to waste I made a few monoprints onto fabric and paper as well. When creating this type of monoprint I often find there is just too much ink on the plate (no mater how frugal I am) and the first few prints turn out to be very dark and often very blurred, which is fine if that is what you want, but not for what I am looking for at the moment. So, when I want a well defined mono print I often make lino prints first, and then use the remaining ink on glass plate for the monoprints.
I am basing the prints on the same image of the child's face that I used for the lino block. The wonderful thing about the mono print is that is has a softer quality and captures the mood I want for the piece I will use these fabrics in.
I especially like the way each time a new print is made the child's face changes in subtle ways, but those eyes keep staring right back at you.
To make the prints I very gently lay a piece of plain fabric (in this case a piece of white Kona cotton) right side down onto the inked glass plate. Because there is not a lot of tacky ink left on the plate I find I have very little transference of ink onto the fabric unless I press onto the back. To hold the fabric in place I either use masking tape at the corners or I use my fingertips to press down in strategic areas where I don't mind the ink transferring. The key is to have a light touch and to be careful.
From then on I simply 'draw' onto the back of the fabric with a tool of some sort. Knitting needles, cocktail sticks, chop sticks and clay shaping tools are all the type of thing I find suitable. Wherever I draw the fabric is pressed into the thin layer of ink and leaves a line. Shading can be achieved by scribbling, cross hatching, making multiple dots or even by gently using a finger or more blunt tool to press and smooth the back of the fabric. It is something that is good to experiment with. The most important thing to remember is that as you are drawing from the back of the image it will be reversed when you finally lift it up from the glass (important if you choose to write words!).
The photos below (reading left to right) are from another piece of work I made a long time ago, but I think they show the process quite clearly. Hover over each photo to see a description of what is going on.
This week I have also dyed a lot of fabric to piece around these images for my first piece about child labour - this one will be about the chocolate industry. Until now I have had only a low awareness of how some of the worlds poorest children are being exploited for our 'guilty pleasure'. Particularly prevalent in the cocoa bean producing regions of Western Africa, where 70% of the world's cocoa is grown (especially in Côte d'Ivoire
and Ghana) children as young as 10 labour on cocoa bean plantations often lured there on false promises of wages or bicycles. Driven by extreme poverty they have little real choice in their lives but to seek work. I wrongly thought that this practice had been closed down long ago, but in fact it is thriving and involves all kinds of human trafficking, forced labour and human rights violations many of which fall under the category of slavery.
A quick google search will take you to many websites which show and explain the extent of the problem, demonstrating how all the big chocolate companies are involved in this terrible business. They claim to be trying hard to eradicate the problem, and although there is some effort of their part to make changes, so far their best efforts have not ended the problem and they have effectively kicked the can down the road each time they have been called to account.
One way to avoid inadvertently supporting this terrible practice is to pressure the big chocolate companies to pay more for their cocoa - and for the suppliers of the cocoa beans to pay their legitimate employees a decent living wage. Other ways are to buy chocolate from producers who source their cocoa from South America where the use of child labour has been almost completely stopped. A third option is to buy chocolate from people who run their manufacture from 'bean to bar' and can prove their ethical standing. Of course, this chocolate is more expensive, but I am happy to pay it to know I am not supporting the use of children to provide the raw material for my 'guilty pleasure'.
Thanks for reading.
Lino printing is one of my favourite methods of mark making on fabric - along with mono printing from glass sheets covered in ink. Although two quite different processes I have found the two generally go hand in hand. In this post I'll share the lino prints I am making and in my next post I will show you how the mono printing is going.
A few weeks ago I went on an excellent course at Ardington School of Crafts in Oxfordshire. It is a lovely place and is very well run by Simon and Yvonne Sonsino. The course was run by painter and printmaker Jessica Rose (www.jessicaroseartist.co.uk) and was one of the best I have been on in a long time. Jessica is lots of fun and very knowledgeable. She passed on all sorts of helpful information - the sort you just can't get from watching a YouTube video!
This is the print block I made on the day, reworked a little to clean it up (hence the pale coloured gouges you can see on the lino block above).
At the course I learned a clever technique that allowed me to make prints with the block on Japanese gampi paper and then add colour to a separate layer behind the paper. The effect is very delicate and as it uses different layers is a technique I would like to explore with fabric.
Mono print and ink wash layers: print on Japanese gampi paper, ink on watercolour paper
I love the way the bold black printed image on the left is really crisp - the black mount around it really enhances the print. In contrast, the white mount of the right subdues it considerably. (same print in both)
I also like the way the water based ink wash that is placed behind the print subtly shows through the beautifully thin and floaty gampi paper. (Carrying a wet fresh print on gampi paper across a crowded workshop requires a lot of planning and no sudden wafts of air!)
Now I have had time to experiment with this technique a little more I have made some samples that I want to use in a small new series that will join the others in my In Their Shoes series. The quilts I want to make are going to focus on the many forms of child labour, from children working within a family setting all the way to child slavery.
Up until now all my lino printing has been self taught. I have learned a lot by myself and really enjoy spending a few hours carving away at various different blocks. As a novice I generally prefer to carve the softer vinyl blocks that are available in most art shops and on line to the harder and sometimes more crumbly grey lino, often referred to as 'Battleship'. (The green block below is an example of one of the softer relief vinyls which is easier to cut, but can be a little stretchy, causing other issues as you carve.)
As I was going to the course I decided I really needed to make the most of having an expert to teach me, so I had a splurge and bought a selection of different types of lino block material and new set of carving tools.
In the past I have relied on the cheap and cheerful red plastic handled cutting tool with interchangeable blades. I must say, there is nothing terribly wrong with them and I have made some great print blocks using them. But my blades are all blunt and rather than spend another £10 on a new set of blades I decided to see what else was available. Turns out there are lots to choose from and a lot of money can be spent!
For a brief moment I did consider the beautifully made Pfeil carving tools but I just couldn't figure out which of the huge number of different shapes and sizes I should buy (too much choice is no choice at all as the saying goes). They were too expensive for me to just guess so I decided to look elsewhere. (Since then I have discovered this fantastic website and blog which might have helped my had I found it earlier: https://www.drawcutinkpress.com/pfeil-lino-cutting-tools-guide/ )
After much searching I ended up choosing this set of Japanese wood carving tools - and they have turned out to be fabulous to use. Of the 5 in the box I have found 4 to be just the sizes I need. (I'm not really sure what to do with the 5th one yet!). Compared to the small red handles tool these cut through even old tough lino with ease.
This is a close up of the block I carved at the course with my lovely new cutters. I used a piece of fresh grey lino - and was amazed at how easy it was to cut compared to using the little red handled cutter - I know it is an old chestnut, but it really was like cutting into butter. I needed no real effort at all to cut the lino and the lines I cut were very clean allowing me to get lots of detail and fiddly bits. In future I think I will be choosing grey lino blocks rather than the easy carve vinyl if these tools continue to perform as they did on first use. (But, if I do use one of those little red cutters again I think I will prefer to choose one of the softer types of lino substitutes and sacrifice the fine detail).
And this is a piece of white Kona cotton fabric that I printed using the block.
I plan to use this fabric and lots more in a new series of quilts I have in mind to make concerning child labour. In my next post I will share the mono prints that I plan to use along with this fabric.
Thanks for reading.