Saturday, 18 March 2017

A fossicking adventure

Hello dear reader.

Thought you might like to see the results of my recent couple of hours fossicking around in a few charity shops. 

I was on a very focused mission - I was after books - books that offered possibilities for some of my mixed media stitched work - notably the next batch of embroidered lampshades and other little pieces. 

The haul was a really mixed bag. 

A dictionary - but those pages or words offer so many options and possibilities. 

But I found a ridiculously cheap book of birds, and just look at some of those illustrations.

And an old London A-Z. I can see that coming to life on lampshades.  I could use the whole pages; I could cut out the parks or patterns within some of the major roads; options, options. 

And did you spot that civil engineering book? 

Sums!! I can definitely do something with sums! 

And, because I was on a roll I was even able to finish this traditional bit of quilting which has been hanging around for too long. All I have to do now is sort out the thread ends then I can say that is done. (A vibrant lap quilt using a simple 9 square design - this must have been started about 5 years ago).

So, all in all a very successful day - and this doesn't include the haul of fabulous paper and an old frame picked up at a studio clearance sale. But that is for another day. 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

My creative space (but don't get excited!)

Over on instagram there has been a bit of a meet the maker thing going on.

Well I am not going to start coming out in front of the camera, so don't panic, but one prompt is to share your studio.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

And it is not very inspiring really is it? ( Unlike the rather charming space belonging to Mrs Bertimus - I've got plastic stag head envy!)

My studio is a conservatory off my bedroom. It is a simple rectangle in shape with a sloping plastic roof - nothing fancy masquerading as a orangery, just a simple conservatory.

The space is somewhat restricted by the fact that there are two double doors. One leads into my bedroom, and the other leads into the garden.

In December, January and February it is pretty in hospitable out there much of the time. But now we are into March it is much more welcoming.  (It is pretty inhospitable in high summer too! But I do have swags of IKEA calico over the ceiling to help keep the worst glare of the sun out and consequently keep the temperature down.)

In my last post I explained that I had set up an impromptu photo shoot with an old sheet. Consequently I had tidied up. So this is when it is tidy! I am a mucky pup! A messy worker. I don't intend to be, but it is just as I am.

The first picture was taken with me standing next to the old filing cabinet (which contains fabric, by the way) looking towards the other corner. That wall is looking a bit blank. If the house was mine (it's rented) I would probably have shelves along there, or may be a rack for thread, or maybe a design wall.  Just looking at it in the photo it looks a bit of a wasted opportunity.

The other picture is taken from the corner with the white cupboard with the boxes on top. That blue IKEA bag contains some lamps - they were reduced in the sale after Christmas and I pounced. I ought to store them in the garage really but I don't want them to get damp. The boxes contain either finished lampshades or lampshade frames waiting to be made.  Pictures are either stored under beds or under the work tables.

And here are my two studio assistants, blending very nicely with the carpet (an eBay purchase that helps keep my feet warm in winter).

So, this is my happy place, but it is very workaday - not a place for relaxing at all (unless you are a dog!). When I am out there I am on a mission!! 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Amateur Photography

With an old bed sheet!

Which I did iron - promise - but you can still see a few creases.

Photography is the bane of my artistic life. I really struggle to take decent photographs of my work. But I had to take a passable photo of a lampshade for an Open Studio application and so needed to try and crack it. 

My current studio is a conservatory off my bedroom. It is a lovely space (although a bit too cold and unwelcoming in the middle of winter to venture in there on a dark evening when the sofa just looks too cosy). It is a lovely size. I might even take a photo for you since it is currently looking reasonably tidy- because I am usually such a messy worker! And one by product of the photo shoot was that I had to tidy up and consequently currently have a tidy space (well, relatively!).

If the sun is not blaring down, the conservatory has good natural daylight and this was what I wanted to capture for my little photo session. 

But no blank walls, hence the white sheet rigged up to create a back drop. 

Overall, I am quite pleased. Certainly the best photos of lampshades I have ever managed. But I don't think the white sheet really cuts the mustard. I just could not get those creases out. Perhaps I need to invest in some sort of 'white box' or roll of white nylon. 

How do other people manage to take decent photos?

Saturday, 4 March 2017

More Daily Art Therapy

What a brilliant and slightly addictive idea this is.

I've tried to keep a regular sketch book before but my ability to keep the practice regular has never quite worked out. So why is this different? 

I think it's because I'm keeping the materials simple. Only a little watercolour palette and my pencil case with a few ink tense pencils thrown in for good measure. 

And I'm keeping those materials all together in a little grab and go bag, so it's been with me on a recent 'day job' outing. 

And I'm also keeping the images simple - flowers and leaves. 

A few recent pages for you to enjoy. 

This one was very popular on Instagram. The white is simply resist created with torn strips of masking tape. Ok, that wasn't technically in my bag, but it was in the bureau behind me so easy to just reach for in a moment of inspiration. 

Another trick I've worked out is to lay down some colour first and then go back later to fill in the detail. 

Why have I not succeeded with this before? 

Here is my recipe for success (I know it's early days, but let's be positive): 

Small sketchbook A5
Simple materials - watercolour palette a few brushes and pencil case
All together in a grab and go bag
Keeping the content simple - in this case just flowers and leaves 
Not really thinking about it - just going for it 
Laying down a few pages of colour to come back to later 

And finally, a little confession. I haven't actually quite managed something every day. A few times life and family etc. have got in the way. So final ingredient for success - don't be too hard on yourself. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Hearts ( well it is still February- just!)

Valentines Day doesn't really do it for me. I guess it is just not my thing.

But I do like a heart motif! I use it a lot in my work.

So I had a happy afternoon in the studio.

I did go into the studio with the intention of doing a few cards (both Valentines and birthday) but first of all got very carried away colouring up some old dictionary pages to add to my paper stash.

I actually grabbed my Gelli Plate and really went for it - ripping pages out of the dictionary like a woman possessed and just getting colour down on them.

This pattern was created with an old credit card.

Some pages I just smeared the paint on. This will all get cut up after all.

Do you remember that chocolate packaging here? Very useful for getting some pattern onto a gelli plate.

And actually rather lovely in it's own right!

The upshot of that was that I quickly ran out of drying space and had to go and walk the dog while a batch dried (mind you she wasn't complaining).

And after all of this activity I made a batch of little cards, which will come in very handy to boost the Open Studio stock later in the year. 

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Daily art therapy

Dear reader - if you peruse these little meanderings from time to time you may know that I have been a bit active since Christmas. But while I have been laying down new background papers, something has been missing from the creative process - an artistic itch if you like.

When it's cold and dark I find my studio very unwelcoming. It's a conservatory off my bedroom. A lovely size and fabulous light but freezing cold and when it rains it's like being in a snare drum. 

Consequently I have been finding it tough to get in there in the evenings. By the time I have walked the dogs and made supper the evening is in full swing and it's too easy to slump on the sofa watching some junk on tv. 

And this is where Instagram has come into its own. 

A few artists post frequently and seem to do something daily. And I have been really inspired by Alisa Burke, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and Laura Kemshall

Alisa Burke posts frequent little sketch book videos filling her little journal with flower sketches. 

Julie Balzer went mad in December with a little daily stamp carving. 

Laura Kemshall recently posted a blog post about how her studio was in turmoil and how a little portable arts caddy was a fabulous way to grab a few minutes on the coffee table. 

Inspired, I grabbed my holiday art bag and a new sketch book ( I seem to have a little stash of new art books - how did that happen?) 

I'm keeping it very simple. A little water colour palette, a koh-I- noor inks palette, a tin of Inktense pencils and a pencil case ( which in all honesty needs a bit of an edit). 

The book is A5 with good quality paper able to take water. And I'm keeping it to 20 minutes. 

And it has been a brilliant exercise so far. 

You can follow my progress on Instagram. I don't post them all. Only the ones I really like! 

And one final benefit - which I hope isn't a conincidence - but it's usually the last thing I do and so far I have been sleeping better. I'm really hoping this benefit will continue! 

Thanks so much for dropping by, and if you are doing a 'sketchbook page a day' or something similar pop the link in the comments so we can all pop over and share the love.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Golden Hare

Dear reader, on Sunday I needed a diversion.

This was the day after the Trump immigration order. It felt overwhelming. I'm one woman, in England. I feel desperately sad for all Americans I connect with via the Internet. No one in my virtual tribe supports this man. But what can I do? I feel powerless.

So a little jaunt out to a little gallery about 30 minutes from my MK home. It may seem trivial and flippant but in these stormy political seas occasionally a beacon of normality can, perhaps, hold you on course. 

Anyways, it was a dismal day and even the dogs were a bit 'meh' about the weather. So we all piled into the car for a little adventure. 

And what a fab little adventure it was. 

The gallery is called The Golden Hare Gallery. It's in Ampthill in Bedfordshire.  Come in and have a little look round.

Ampthill is one of those places - sort of always at the back of my mind ( I know not why) but never visited. Maybe I see it signposted a lot. Who knows.

Anyway, I did not know what to expect. 

A grey, January day does not do the town justice ( a small town, but not a village - it has a Waitrose! Will that reference mean anything to foreign readers?) 

Certainly historic - the road in then the little market square was lined with buildings which seemed modestly Georgian - simply elegant red brick frontages.  But the town felt a bit dissected and dominated by roads. Not great for mooching around and there did not seem to be many shops open to mooch around, except for said Waitrose - which seemed to be heaving. 

But we were after one particular little shop - the gallery called Golden Hare. 

A quick look at the website told us that the name comes from the Golden Hare amulet hidden by artist and author Kit Williams in the 1980s. 

In 1979 Masquerade, a picture book, written and illustrated by Kit Williams, sparked a treasure hunt frenzy. The book, a beautifully executed picture book ( Williams was an artist) concealed visual clues to the location of a jeweled golden hare, created and hidden somewhere in Britain by Williams. (Never mind treasure hunt, the book sold thousands of copies and must have been a bit of a treasure for both artist and publisher. But I digress.)

The hare was actually buried in Ampthill Park - hence the name of the gallery. 

Now I had discovered this gallery via the power of the Internet - or to be precise the joy that is Instagram. I follow it and love the little visual hors d'oevres served up daily. Time to go see for myself. 

It's a sweet little gallery - a lovely space beautifully curated. The owner, a lovely young lady called Laura, has selected a beautiful range of artists work. 

I was thrilled to see that she has a range of work by two local artists - Laura Boswell and Dianna Tonnison. Both are based just outside MK and I have been to both their studios during Open Studios season.

Laura is a well know printmaker. She uses a Japanese wood print technique, using just one print block for each layer of the print, cutting into it for the next layer and thus in effect destroying the block as she goes ( does that make sense?) Her studio is just outside Winslow, my last home from home. And as well as visiting during Open Studios, I used to see Laura out running sometimes when I was walking the dog. 

Dianna is a ceramist but in a very painterly way. She makes wall art of fruit, vegetables and notably fish. 

She also does prints onto recycled wood panels. 

I visited her studio and garden a few years ago. (She is in a small village just to the north of Milton Keynes - a lovely studio space and I had studio envy, I remember.)

And I was also thrilled to see that she has Este Macleod work too. 

Now Este Macleod is an artist whose work is very familiar to me, again through the internet. But it was quite a surprise to see it in the flesh. The pieces were smaller than I expected. I have no idea why I had assumed that the pictures would be bigger, but in fact they were quite modest in size. 

But stunning! The colours just sing out! 

As well as pictures and wall art, The Golden Hare also has a beautiful selection of jewellery. 

Beautiful earrings by Amanda Ray. 

Silver by Kerry Newth

Textiles by Siouki

And Zoe Acketts

And I discovered a new artist to me, Brenda Parsons. She also stitches with paper - a lady close to my heart. 

And to end this little tour, ceramics. 

Lovely ceramics but these by Sarah Groves particularly spoke to me. 

Just look at those 'textile' textures!  Little quilted vases! 

This is such a lovely little gallery. If you are in the area of sailing past on the M1 it is well worth a little detour. 

But don't worry if you can't because it has a really good website and Laura will happily send work out to you. 

Just lovely! 

(all photos courtesy the Golden Hare Gallery)