Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Printing, Dyeing, Stamp making and Embroidery - phew!

At last! Here are a few of the new techniques I tried out on my Hawkwood Workshop with Frances Pickering. I'm sure they'll be familiar to many of you,  but as I usually try to use only natural products,  I have to admit they were pretty exciting, and felt rather naughty to me! On reflection , I think  the benefits from being able to use recycled synthetic fabrics as well as natural ones gives me a whole new world to play with, if I  use the new things in moderation.

I must be honest - I started to put my book together during the weekend, but it it wasn't going as planned, so I took it apart. Starting again, armed with my new techniques.

I used heat transfer ink to paint this sunflower, and then applied it to synthetic fabric. The design has now also made quite a nice foam stamp. I'd attempted to use foam in the past, but couldn't get the level of detail I wanted. Frances' expert knowledge has now set me on the right path! Stamp making is also highly addictive - I'm rationing myself.:)  We also used abaca tissue, which I'm so in love with for painting and stitching now. The sketch is ink on fabric with a little stitching added.

I've also been experimenting with natural dyeing, which I haven't done for a long time. This is Egyptian cotton dyed with turmeric and blackberries, amongst other things.

 And finally, tah da! Some embroidery. This is a bit of a different style for me, for two reasons, firstly 'cos  I want to incorporate it into my work, but in a new way,  and two, because I've got some beginner students who want to learn all the basic stitches. I felt I really should have some  stitch variety in my sample folder, so  I stitched these! I must give thanks to the wonderful Sharon Boggon of Pintangle and TAST for many of the stitches I've incorporated. Sadly I've never managed to keep up with TAST, but I do follow it, and always recommend my class to visit Pintangle for wonderful inspiration, eye candy and stitch tutorials.

 This one is buttonhole stitches,  just using a random  variety of threads -

And this is chain stitch variations -

This was really fun to do. I surprised myself. Now I'm going to put all my new knowledge together........ What will happen next?...........

Friday, 12 September 2014

Bountiful September Mornings

Some sunny mornings this month mean more kingfisher spotting, and watching a poor buzzard being harassed by two magpies!  I spotted deer tracks by the rhine, but no sign of their makers. There's early autumn abundance everywhere,  with berries, fruits, nuts and seeds,  but summer is still holding on.

The scent of aniseed from wild fennel fills the air as you  brush past.

Summer flowers still bloom everywhere,  like hedge woundwort,

and golden melilot.

Common blue butterflies are enjoying summer's last fling.

 Berries,  berries everywhere! I think this is the Common Whitebeam, Sorbus Aria, showing off.

Meanwhile, the herons are catching plenty of fish!

And beautiful seed heads are appearing in huge numbers, including some of my favourites, Traveler's Joy,  hemlock and and common hogweed. They have such an amazing structure.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Frances Pickering: Late Summer at Hawkwood

First, I want to say a big thank you to all of you  still following me. I am delighted you are sharing this new journey with me, and I really appreciate all your lovely comments and e-mails.
Now -  having shared my first trials with fabric/art sketchbooks with you,  you can see  how an expert melds these 2  things together! Thanks to what I can only call serendipity - and my very dear friend Alison, I was able to attend a wonderful weekend at Frances Pickering's Late Summer Masterclass, held at beautiful Hawkwood College in Gloucestershire. Let me set the scene.....

 The college is in an idyllic spot and although it was cloudy for much of the weekend,  there were still some beautiful spots of colour in the garden and fields around.

 Hawkwood has it's own natural spring in the grounds.

The surrounding buildings are lovely too - this fabulous old barn now houses equipment for stone sculpture courses.
Crops are grown and these lovely piggies run around happily. We had a long chat and they informed me they are the best fed pigs in Gloucestershire. Having eaten far too much of Hawkwood's delicious organic food for the last 2 days I believe them!

 View from the front entrance  - green, calm and serene.
And here it is in the sunshine!

Beehives clustered under the tree produce Hawkwood honey.
It's such a great place.

Onto the main event.....

Here we are in the big sunny hall working on our books. The workshop theme was 'Black and White and Read all over'. We were limited to using black and white, shades of grey and the use of text which inspired us. This was really challenging - but so inspiring!

Alongside my excitement I was a little apprehensive, as I was very much the new girl among Frances' regular students,  but I was made so welcome by a truly delightful and entertaining group of ladies. Frances is a wonderful artist,  an inspiring and generous teacher, and all round lovely lady. She's supported by her husband, Jim, who amongst other things, manages all her administration, and keeps everyone laughing with his great sense of humour.

Frances had brought along a vast selection of her black and white books to inspire us (Do check out her website to see the beautiful colourful work she does too!) She very kindly gave me permission to take photographs, and I had a very hard time deciding what to take, but  here's the sample I chose to show you.

 So many beautiful books!
 This one is only a few inches big.
 I could live in that nest!
 I couldn't choose a favourite, but this book really calls to me,  the illustrations are so 'me'.

 Frances had also brought  some of her sketchbooks, and this one really caught my attention.

 This tiny book inspired by the Welsh coast is simply exquisite.

She has also made a suite of books to commemorate this years First World War anniversary; they are both beautiful and very moving.

I learnt so much over the last couple of days and I've come away with so many new creative ideas my head's buzzing. I'll show you what I did at the workshop in my next post.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sketching nature for fabric and stitch.

Over the past months, I've been trying different methods which bring my love of sketching and journal keeping together with my textile and embroidery projects. My plan is to do this simply, recycling and re purposing, and limiting the use of products.  I've not found a substitute for everything yet,  but plan to just enjoy the moment, the processes, and the journey.

To begin, it's 'waste not, want not'! Gathering all my trial bits and pieces, I made up a sample book. I challenged myself to only use of odd and ends and scraps, and I managed to achieve it, apart from one bit of bonding material.

The cover's made from a piece started ages ago.  Great Tits were the first birds to visit our wildlife garden and are always regular visitors,  raising their chicks to enjoy our peanuts - and the odd sunflower seed. I think they're super little birds, brave and adaptable. They frequently scold us if we're late filling the bird feeders!

Each technique in the book has a page. Some things worked - and some didn't! I'm trying different styles to find my way.

Simple fabric transfers, using drawings from my sketchbook and watercolour techniques.

I had to include the magpie, as every year a family of these clever and handsome birds fledge in our garden and keep us amused with their antics. The poor magpie is much maligned; recent reports from the British Trust for Ornithology have shown that far from being a threat to smaller birds,  the population  actually increases when there are more magpies present. Way to go magpies!

This was the original  sketch -

worked up here,

ready for a fabric transfer using Gesso.

This weekend I'm doing a masterclass with a wonderful textile artist, a lady who makes the most beautiful books.  Very excited.Watch this space!

Monday, 1 September 2014

A late summer afternoon on the Kings Weston Rhines

A sunny afternoon led me out to walk across the reclaimed marshland behind our home in  north west Bristol.  Here, the floodplain of the River Severn supports a network of drainage ditches known as 'rhines'. A surprising number of rare and scarce species can be found here, including otter and water vole. The bank on the nearest rhine has been cleared recently, and I found roe deer tracks in the mud. This is a good spot to find a drink!

The rhines are also full of small fish! Last week a shrill cry and flash of iridescent blue thrilled me,  as not one, but two kingfishers graced the rhine, flying along the watercourse.  A heron stood sentinel on the bank and two mallard swam past it. It reminded me of  an image in a Ladybird nature book - all the right elements in one place. It was all too swift for my camera, so I  tried a quick sketch in my nature journal to remember the moment.  I was also really delighted to see them, because as well as being beautiful, the kingfisher is a good indicator of freshwater health.

 I've seen the kingfishers twice now. I hope they decide it's a good place to fish and stay longer.