Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Grand Day Out and Cake

My DH knows me so well!  He said he couldn't resist this card for my birthday yesterday :))  (I hasten to add I do manage a reasonable state of cleanliness, enough not to poison us!).  He also bought me a 'proper' card too.  In fact I had a stack of lovely cards from family and friends and so many wonderful good wishes from all my wonderful cyber friends, many of whom I haven't even met irl.  In case I haven't said it on Facebook, thank you all for the birthday wishes I have received.  It wasn't even a big birthday but it felt very special.

So, as many of you know, I went off to York with my friend for the day.  Our main aim was to visit the Quilt Museum (again) to view their current exhibition.   Both exhibitions were impressive and left Ann and I reeling with sensation and inspiration.  I hadn't expected to be so moved by the quilts from the 'Sewing in Wartime' exhibition.  In fact I was brought to tears by a quilt made in support of our young men serving in 1982 in the Falklands.  While the quilt was moving in itself, with its use of flashes from the Welsh Guards regiment, many of whom were lost in the sinking of the Sir Galahad, what moved me more was the fact that the maker had raffled it for charity and her husband had then bought it back for her from the winner.  My husband is just such a man.  Who knew that an exhibition could stir such emotion? 

The atmosphere in the Museum was buzzing yesterday and there were many visitors.  The staff and volunteers were particularly welcoming and eager to chat to us about the exhibits or just about how far we had come.  We spoke to one lady who had come from Portsmouth and another who had come up from Sandwich in Kent to view the exhibition.  In addition we met Marilyn Lovett, the new president of the Quilters Guild and she very generously helped my friend with a design dilemma she has for a cot quilt.

Regrettably photographs are not allowed at the Quilt Museum but if you click here Mags Ramsey, who had a stunning quilt in Magie Relph's 'Under African Skies' exhibition, has an image of part of the room including her own wonderful piece 'Tunisian Door'.  Click here too for Magie Relph's own views of her exhibition.  Mags has also written more about the work that went into her quilt here. Do click on her image to enlarge it as she has used some really interesting fabrics.  In real life the colours are vibrant and the turquoises are luminous.  The 'Under African Skies' exhibition includes work by Magie Relph inspired by her many visits to Africa and also work from artist friends of hers which have also been inspired and influenced by Africa and its stunning colours.

Talking of stunning colours I couldn't resist these beautiful pieces of African Wax Cloth, many of which come from Ghana.  My DH has already earmarked them for a waistcoat!  I've told him I might make the cloth up and someone else can make the waistcoat.  Dressmaker I am not!  Of course, if he uses the fabric I will have to visit Magie's stall at the Festival of Quilts, won't I?  I may have to buy some African strip cloth too having seen Liz Hewitt's piece from the STRIP:joint exhibit included in 'Under African Skies'. 

On the subject of African fabrics, by coincidence my Mum's neighbour has friends in The Gambia and has spent quite a lot of time over there.  He has brought back several items of clothing and was wearing a loose top and trouser outfit when we arrived.  Of course we got talking about fabrics and eventually he came out with an old top from The Gambia which he gave me.

The embroidery is beautiful and I love the simple patterning.  The garment is showing signs of wear but that makes it easier to use the fabric so I am now looking for inspiration to help me decide how to use it.  I've jokingly asked him to leave his collection to me :) Cheeky!

Back to our day out, I decided to take out Annual Membership of the Quilt Museum as it is really cheap and it means I can go free at any time and as the exhibitions change 4 times a year it will save me lots of money.  Trouble is I will probably spend plenty in the shop too!  Well, you have to support the Guild if you belong don't you?  One good reason for joining the Guild that I hadn't really considered was the resource value of the documents and books held at the Museum especially for anyone studying textiles and quilting.  I have certainly gained a lot by my own membership and by joining the Contemporary Quilt Group within the Guild.  If you're thinking of joining there's a link at the top of my right hand side bar.

We had lunch in a repurposed church hall just a few minutes walk from the Museum, mostly because it was so close by and it was cheap!

Later in the day we passed street entertainers

 before getting tempted in Betty's.

Isn't this window display sweet?  The fishes and crabs are all edible biscuits or cakes.  We would have liked to have had a sit-down tea which is a very special event at Betty's but time was against us so Ann just bought some goodies to eat on the train home.

The fancies were delicious and the Tarte au Citron has managed to survive until today, but not for much longer!

You can tell Ann is also a fabric fanatic as she wrapped my present in a gorgeous piece of batik and tied it with a lovely red ribbon. (Oops forgot to photograph the pretty birdie brooch inside).

My lovely DH bought me this fantastic book about Kurt Jackson, my favourite modern artist.  

I love his vibrant paintings and his drawings say so much with just a few lines.  The book has only been published this month and is available at Lemon Street Gallery in Truro who showcase Kurt's work.

When I got home my stepson was waiting to share a chinese meal and a friend called round during the evening. So, all in all a 'Grand Day Out' and a very enjoyable birthday.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


After yesterday's blog you wouldn't think I would want anymore inspiration would you?  However, on the grounds that I like their work and couldn't miss an opportunity to see it my friend and I went to Lincoln to the Sam Scorer gallery near Lincoln Castle.

Nolitex is made up of artists from Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and they are a group of very talented ladies.

The ladies stewarding very kindly allowed me to take a couple of long shots of the exhibition.  The Nolitex site has one or two photos of the exhibits and you may find more on the members' blogs that are listed there.

You can probably see that the work is very varied with machine embroidery, felting, needle felting, knitting, printing and dyeing, hand stitching, wrapped stones, wrapped driftwood and 3d work with moulding mesh all making an appearance. 

If you live within reach of the gallery the exhibition is on until Sunday so there is still time to visit.  If you don't live locally they are hoping the exhibition will tour and some of it will be on display next Spring at the NEC at the Embroidery Show (used to be the Madeira Show).

Monday, 19 July 2010

June Journal Quilt

This is my Journal Quilt for the month of June for the Contemporary Quilt Group monthly Journal Quilt challenge.  It is 10" x 7" and is entitled "Inishmaan" which is an island off the west coast of Ireland.  It is based on the watercolour painting that I blogged about a while ago.  If you follow the link the post also refers to the workshop I took with Alicia Merrett which has also inspired this quilt.  

The quilt includes my own hand dyes and some commercial fabrics (batik) and also a colour catcher from the washing machine.  Having made this small quilt I am in awe of the effort that Alicia must put in to make her own quilts as they are very intricate.  I assume that with practice the process would speed up but it did take me quite a long time and a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to the ironing board.  I think an ironing pad would have been a better idea.

Do you ever get those low times when you know you should be busy with the next project but you just can't think what that is?  I am definitely in the doldrums creative wise at the moment.  I have been enjoying making the book from Carole's course and I'm still doing bits and pieces to that but I am all at sea to know what I will do next.  I have to make a journal quilt for July so I really need to get my mojo working again.  The sketchbook project is languishing too although it is buzzing around in my head, I just need to sit down and do something!  Mind you, our house is looking a bit neglected at the moment and my workspace is a total mess so maybe if I had a tidy up my brain would get uncluttered too!

Talking of clutter, I think my brain is cluttered with all the inspiration I have been finding around the web and in exhibitions over the last months.  I think it's a case of input overload.  Do you ever feel like that?  Usually I am so inspired by all the things I read and am itching to try things out but just now I don't know where to start.  I'm sure that will change very soon.  It's probably a reaction to finishing the quilt for Festival. 

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Lindisfarne and Friends

As promised this post is mostly about our visit to Lindisfarne, a precious and magical island off the coast of Northumberland which is cut off by the tide twice a day.  We were really lucky in that the tides were right for our visit and we were able to get a bus from Berwick which left us on the island just before 11 in the morning and came back for us shortly before 7 in the evening.  We have been to Lindisfarne twice in the past including a week spent in a cottage 9 years ago.  If you click on the link above you will find a wealth of information about this beautiful place which has an ancient history that is almost tangible.

First things first, as we got off our bus we were met by Julia and her husband who we know through blogging.  Julia loves working in mixed media but she is also a very talented digital artist and I would love to live near enough to have some lessons from her ;o)  Speaking of mixed media, Julia spoiled me totally with some beautiful gifts that overwhelmed me with her generosity and also her skill.

This beautiful cutwork is called 'Lovers' Knot'.  It is a Celtic knot, which is very appropriate for a visit to Lindisfarne, and Julie has skilfully cut out the negative shapes to leave this intricate shape.  It has beautiful beading too and rests on an interesting piece of organza with a thread running through it.  It is in fact framed but I had difficulty photographing it in its entirety due to reflected light.

Not content with giving me the Lovers Knot Julia also gave me this pretty bag, distressed sheers and felt brooch and another beautiful knot that I am going to use in the sketchbook I am making with Carole.  Thank you so much Julia for your beautiful gifts. 

So what's the first thing you do when you meet up with friends?  Go for a cuppa of course!  These sparrows were amazingly tame and came to Keith's hand for crumbs of cake.  I'm afraid we ate the cakes before I thought to take any photos.  Suitably refreshed we headed out to Lindisfarne Castle which is a National Trust property.

The castle was originally an Elizabethan fort but was converted to an Edwardian home by Sir Edwin Lutyens.  I had not been familiar with Lutyens' designs before but I liked the simple lines of his furniture and architectural motifs.  There was lots of inspiration in surface patterns and textures.

Standing apart form the castle and protected by a stone wall is the Castle garden which was designed by Gertrude Jekyll, who worked in conjunction with Lutyens on many gardens.

Considering its proximity to the sea and its relatively exposed position the garden had a beautiful array of plants in flower.

I think this plant above is fennel and I was struck by the delicate fronds and the movement made by the lines of the stems.  I'm sure this could be interpreted in stitch.  There were lots of beautiful poppy seedheads too. (I've lost the photos I took of the patterns on the seedheads). :o(

These delicate harebells were growing out of the parapet around the castle terrace.   You can see it was a bit of a showery day but that just added to the atmosphere.

The sheds in the photograph above are made from upturned boats that have been cut down and doors fitted to the 'front'.  There are more down on the foreshore that are used by local fishermen for their fishing tackle.

Once the causeway reopened Julie and Keith headed off for home and DH and I took a walk down to the beach for a quick beachcomb.  The tide was well on its way out and the clouds were quite low down on the mainland.

As I wandered about the beach I could hear seals 'singing' in the distance.  It was a most haunting sound.  I have been trying to find a sound clip on You Tube but I can't find anything that approaches what we heard.  We could see the seals just the other side of the small island you can see in the photograph above. 

The shingle beaches gave me several sources for potential future design work.

Having spent a day on Lindisfarne again we are now thinking that we really should go back again for a proper visit.  Maybe we'll see you there?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Weekend Break

DH and I have just come back from a few days away in Berwick on Tweed, a very old, walled town in the North East of England.  In fact, it is the most northern town in England and has often been the subject of violent border disputes between the Scots and English in previous centuries, so much so that at various times the border has been moved to put it into either Scotland or England.  These days it is firmly in England even though many Scottish towns are situated South of it.  Such are borders!  

Berwick is a very beautiful town, we found, and it has some beautiful buildings, many of them Georgian.  You can walk around the fortifications that date to various periods of history and you can feel the power of the history all around you.  You almost expect to see a Napoleonic soldier marching down the main street.
 You may gather from this photograph that much of the town lies within and below the walls.  Parts of the walls are huge constructions with passageways cut through them to allow access and to allow the soldiers to burst out and fend off attacks.  

This huge door in the walls gives access to the quayside.  It must stand at least 15 - 20 feet tall!

Berwick's other claim to fame is its three bridges

The further bridge carries the railway and the middle concrete bridge carries the modern road.  The beautiful stone bridge in the foreground now carries traffic in one direction only and at one time carried all the traffic from London to Edinburgh!  Imagine it filled with horses and coaches, it must have been chaos as traffic increased and the motor car began to become popular.
This fortified wall is just past the railway bridge.  Imagine running up that flight of stairs when an attack starts!  The mere thought makes me dizzy!

These allotments must be a bit tricky to work on the slopes behind the stone wall.  At least they are sheltered from the strong winds that were blowing during our visit.

Needless to say I found plenty of textures and patterns to inspire me as we walked about.  These flowers formed part of the decoration on the outside of a building.  They may just find their way into some artwork, suitably altered of course.

This shape is part of what used to be a gun emplacement. 

I have to confess I brought a little of this rusted chain home with me, well, it was just laying in the gutter!

I had forgotten till I got to Berwick that the artist, LS Lowry, loved Berwick and visited often, in fact he nearly bought a house there.  This lighthouse appeared in one of his paintings and in pencil sketches.  There is a Lowry trail around Berwick highlighting the locations that he painted from and, having been to The Lowry gallery in Salford and seen some of his sea paintings I felt they were brought to life by standing where he had stood.  Although he is known for his paintings of "matchstalk men" Lowry also painted very atmospheric paintings of the sea and emotive portraits.

If you ever have the chance to stay in Berwick we can recommend the Bed and Breakfast we stayed in.  (No affiliation).  

This is us chilling out after a very long but very pleasant day on Lindisfarne meeting up with blogging friends.  But you're going to have to wait for that cos I'm off to bed!  Night night!

PS Excuse the pink jammies! ;o) I like my comfort, so much for style! lol

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Works in Progress

I have been making good progress on the quilt for our friend's baby who was born a week ago today.  I was hoping to get it finished for today as we should have been visiting baby but unfortunately Mum and baby have had to have a few more days in hospital so I have been given a reprieve for a few days.  Just as well really as my machine is not behaving itself and I keep getting broken threads.  I've adjusted the tension and I am already using a new needle so I think I may have to change the thread I am using and see if that helps.  Anyway here's a pic of the progress so far:

I've settled on a random swirly quilt stitch and I'm quilting it a quarter at a time so that I don't have to keep heaving acres through the throat of the machine.  

After what seems like a long wait my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project arrived yesterday.

I've had a great time today colourwashing some pages and I've also decorated/strengthened the front cover.  The sketchbook is fairly small at only 8.5 inches by 5 but what surprised me was the weight of the paper which just about takes a wash.  I quite like the effect on the reverse of the pages where the paint has soaked through to give a light texture. 

My working title for the sketchbook is 'This is not a Sketchbook'.  I thought that would be less daunting than a set theme and in my mind it means I can do pretty much anything I want in any medium.  I'm thinking there will be a fair bit of collage work and some printing but I will try and get round to doing some sketches here and there.  The sketchbook will eventually be returned to America and will go into the permanent collection at Brooklyn Art Library where people will be able to take it out to read just like any library book.  The sketchbooks will also be available to view online from the end of this year and will be going on tour.  If you fancy joining in there's still plenty of time.

A few days ago I received an email inviting me to participate in a project that will benefit a village in the Central Africa Republic.  I checked out the projects credentials and found that several people I know in blogland are already taking part so I decided I would join in too.  I reproduce here Amy's initial invitation.

"I would like to ask if you would consider becoming part of this project that will benefit a village in the Central Africa Republic. A few ladies have been taught quilting and they are really enjoying it. These ladies have sent our organization 2 beautiful squares and we are hoping to put these squares together with other squares from around the world to make a beautiful quilt that will be auctioned off and 100% of the proceeds will go to a new well for a village in Central African Republic and a latrine for a school in CAR. We are asking quilters to donate a 12 x 12 or 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 block for our Global Quilt that will be auctioned. We will build 2 latrines (one for the boys and one for the girls) at a school and a nearby clean water well for the community's use. These latrines will provide the privacy maturing girls need to stay in school and the well will help prevent water related diseases. "

Hopefully these crazy squares will fit the bill.  There is still a little time if you want to join in.  The squares have to be in Florida by 31 August so if you can spare a little time click here for details. 

My sketchbook is going to be christened tomorrow.  We are travelling up to Berwick by train and I am going to do some 'travel lines' a la Margaret Cooter.  There is also going to be a meeting with another blogging friend see you soon Julia!

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, I've been adding a bit more to the sketchbook I am making with Carole Brungar.

I've still got lots to do before I can get to the binding but I'm really enjoying the change after making my festival quilt.  
Have a good rest of week :o)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Peterborough Open Studios Weekend

This weekend and next artists in Peterborough are opening their doors to share their work and their creative spaces with the public.  There are 26 venues taking part and, in many cases, several artists are sharing each venue.  Today Wendy took me and another friend Roz for a tour round some of the studios.  We had a short list of 4 that we hoped to visit but ended up adding in another that we saw advertised and which turned out to be a real prize.

First port of call was Art & Stitch (venue 16) where I have been for workshops and which as ever was buzzing with people chatting and learning.  The artists displaying their work were Angela Watson, Sarah Payne and Pam Pardoe.  I was pleased to be able to see Angela's poppy wall hanging which she featured on her blog recently and which she is justifiably proud of.  Angela, it's so much more lovely in real life!

Sarah was busy teaching a beading class when we arrived but she had plenty of her work on display and also, even more delightful, her sketchbooks were available to browse through.  Don't you just love looking through other people's sketchbooks?  It's fascinating to see how artists work through some of the potential problems before they start working or explore an idea to see where it will take them.  (Note to self, make better use of your own sketchbooks, like, use one!!!)

This is a very small sample of the work Sarah had on display.  You may be able to see that Sarah has been inspired by the glorious colours and patterns of the artist Hundertwasser. Sarah is a vibrant and enthusiastic artist and her work encompasses textiles, quilting and beading.  One of these days I am going to get round to doing a beading class with her at Art & Stitch!

Pam Pardoe is a skilled quilter and many of her quilts were on display both inside and outside Art & Stitch but, for my sins, I didn't take any photos of them.  Apologies Pam!

Tearing ourselves away from the lively atmosphere at Art and Stitch we got sidetracked into Pondskippercrafts  which is on the same industrial estate.  They specialise in items for the paper crafter and card maker but they carry things that can equally be used in mixed media and sketchbook-making and their prices were very competitive.

Next stop on our tour was venue 4 which featured the work of Sue Shields, a painter and printer who doesn't seem to have an internet presence, Carol Burnett who makes beautiful beaded jewellery inspired by the coast.  Her pieces were beautifully displayed on pebbles and beach finds and added to the atmosphere of the rooms which displayed Sue's beautiful paintings and linocuts, no photos I'm afraid :o( Also on display was pottery by Lindsey Wisniewski, also no internet presence.

While we were at venue 4 we picked up a flyer for another venue that we had missed and which offered cream teas in the garden! What a fantastic venue this was!  The work on display was beautiful restful paintings by Julie Reid who had also designed the beautiful garden, Kathryn Moore who was showing her woven wall hangings, shawls and bags and Ann Bellamy who makes wonderful jewellery including brooches from glass fragments and beads.  I was very tempted!  Julie Reid is also a garden designer and her garden was a very special place, so much so that we sat a spell and had a cream tea!!

Suitable refreshed, and spurred on by sat-nav we moved on to venue 8 in the home of Kay Hall, a lovely textile and mosaic artist.  Also here was Nadine Gereson who works in silver jewellery.

This wonderfully sculpted shrub greeted us at the door.  We thought maybe it was a laurel.

Do go and take a look at Kay's website, she has some beautiful work displayed there and you can see that her textiles and mosaics inform each other.  

Kay also had a delightful garden that she allowed us to wander in.  Both hers and Julie's showed the flair of an artist at work , and had lots of quirky bits and pieces to keep you interested and inspired, small strings of mirrors spinning in the wind, rusty bits, small stone figures hiding in the borders, wooden toadstools, windchimes with different tones, mosaic tables and pots.  

 This gorgeous bark was on a pine tree (cupressus?) in Kay's garden.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see the depth of colour and the textures.  I don't think I would have expected to see this colour bark on a cypress tree. 

Our last port of call was Venue 13, The Cavell Centre, which had a wide selection of work from local artists across Cambridgeshire. (Unfortunately they did not have the bowls on display that feature in the publicity for PAOS). Needless to say by the time we had walked round the centre we were tiring and ready for home.  You still have time to visit the Peterborough Open Studios either this weekend or next weekend and judging by the work we saw today it is well worth a visit if you live near enough.