A wonderful week

Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of spending the week learning alongside 7 other wonderful women . . . Lucy Worsley and 6 other workshop participants on “Stitch it together with collage”  organised by Fibre Arts New Zealand.   I took the workshop as a challenge . . . collage is not my strong point by any means although I’m a dab hand on the sewing machine and recently I’ve enjoyed hand stitching as well.

At first I struggled because I was looking at the image more than the colour and texture it would impart to a background.  Once I shifted my way of viewing the materials I had on hand I began to explore abstracts based on a cruciform composition.

What I ended up with was a series of three images where I was able to incorporate my love of topographical maps and texture.

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #3

Topography Series #3

So what have I learned?  Listen to feedback and then decide for yourself what to do, step back, sleep on it, return and decide.    Pare back . . . less is sometimes more, don’t allow a desire to use materials to swamp good design, in short, let materials speak for themselves.

I felt so encouraged when the first of the series sold as it hadn’t occurred to me to offer it as this was an exploration at a workshop however another participant loved it.  So there is was at the showing with all the work from the other workshops with a little red dot . . . how happy was I!    Before I left #2 and #3 were also sold . . . Goal #1: ‘To make work so appealing and interesting that people would want to own it’ achieved.

Happy, happy, happy!  Now, to work towards Goal #2 . . . I’ll let you know what it is when I achieve it.

 

a gift

When you  make something to give away you never quite know how it will be received . . . but you give it away and hope.  Like watching a child leave home because you put everything into it that you could at the time.

Yesterday I received a gift in return.  Spontaneous words of appreciation.

“Nanna, you know that book you gave me for my birthday.”

“The nature one?”

“No, the one with the photos.”

“Yes.”

“I really like it.”

And she gave me a cuddle so at this point my heart melted all over again.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

Yes, a delightful, inquisitive, cuddlesome monkey.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

One day Meg could be an animal trainer.

She loves being at her Nanna's house

She loves being at her Nanna’s house

But the beach is what she loves most.

But the beach is what she loves the most.

Three weeks ago for her seventh birthday she received a book with 5 years worth of photos of her taken at my house . . . but I received something much more precious.

another beginning

I have started to mend the Indian bedspread.  After some lines on paper I chose to use simple untidy running stitches that are wonky and without much of a pattern.  Like me they travel west to east, north to south so that they show up on both sides.   I’m not one for taking the needle through to the back and then to the front . . . I scoop, several stitches at a time.  I guess this has been my approach to life . . . take a stab, draw up all you can and trust that it will all come through okay.

The side with rents in it, now mended, strengthened.

The side with rents in it, now mended, now strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened and lending it’s strength to the injury.

The birds in the centre have a problem.  The sun has eaten their orange feathers so some patching is needed . . . some soft unbleached calico set into the holes and leave the edges raw?  Perhaps.  Or patch them over with some old table linen I have found in my efforts to clear out the things that are trying to take ownership of me.

A bright bird . . . from the fold protected from the sun.

A bright bird . . . it wisely hid in the fold and was protected from the sun.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

I’m loath to hide their scars, the ravages of time, any more than I feel the need to hide what time is doing to me.   And so the metaphor continues . . . time has an impact that can be read if you use eyes, and ears and heart.

There are many who would simply discard this cloth, deciding that with so many holes (about 30) it has reached the end of it’s decorative life.   But it can still serve its purpose because I have turned it over to the birdless side.   It has a place keeping warm someone who remembers as she stitches.

cloth as a metaphor

I have a very old Indian bedspread that has worn so thin that  I cannot mend it much more despite trying to reinforce it with a lightweight interfacing here and there.  The Here and There are meeting and it is in danger of falling apart so I am considering cutting into it and preserving parts, stitching it to a strong foundation . . . the parts where the Here and There meet and the parts where it remains strong.
Or perhaps I can reinforce it with small pieces of calico behind the cloth and use stitching, boro style, in hope it will last another summer.

This cloth means so much to me.    Much more than the memories, the journeys where it has kept me company, kept me warm on lonely nights and provided a soft place to lie in the sun.

A still bright corner.

A still bright corner.

The meeting of Here and There

The meeting of Here and There

This cloth is a metaphor for me, a little worn in places, bright and as good as new in others, such is the power of cloth.  I don’t want to overlay it with patches and cover over the imperfections any more than I want to hide the lines on my face or the grey in my hair.  I want to respect the wear, respect its history.

I wonder, what you would do with it?

another book

I wanted to return to my son some of the gift he has given me . . . images of my grandhearts taken over the last four and a half years I’ve been back in New Zealand.

The album has a dyed calico backing, a paint-stained baby wipe, embroidery and a few washers.  The pages are tea stained paper bound with coptic stitch so it will lie flat when open.

Adam's Album

Adam’s Album

The baby wipe was stained from wiping off paint or cleaning up bits of acrylic paint as I worked in a journal or monoprinting papers. If you smooth them out a bit when they’re still damp with paint, they dry quite soft. You can also work them in your hands a little so they’re even softer. They aren’t hard-wearing of course and the pattern is quite random which dictated where the stitching went.

I save stuff just in case it comes in handy . . . I have several more.

you don’t have to like everything you do

When working with a class of 13 years old students identifying the values they held and the positive qualities they were developing, we used an art journal to record their work . . . some found it really challenging so I developed a simple way for them to critique their work when they didn’t like the results using three quick questions.

1. What, specifically, don’t you like.  It was often something quite small such as the way some lettering went off the page.  This helped me know what to teach them next or, better still, which other student could teach them something about layout or lettering etc.

2. What details do you like (so you can do it again and share it with someone struggling . . . see  #1)?  If I did this again I ask the kids to add their names to a skills list  so that others could use it as a reference for support.

3. What are some ways you can improve on what you have done?  We developed the ‘step away’ assessment to help with this question . . . prop it up, take four big steps back and look at what the work might need.

We also developed, in groups, peers critiques where people noted what really stood out for them, especially if they though it something they could do.  If a student asked for support in the form of a question such as “What would you do next if this was your work?” or “Who can anyone show me how to do XYZ better?” a suggestion could be made . . . other wise it was positive feedback only.

As a result students became adept at finding what worked well and didn’t dismiss their efforts so lightly.  They also saw that many other struggled with the same things as they did.

So why am I telling you this?  Because I attended a workshop with Gill Allen on the weekend and didn’t like every aspect of everything I did.  By applying the same three questions, I came up with just a couple of things I didn’t like and a longer list of successes.

The overall composition doesn’t really appeal to me so I learned that I should go with my first impulse when making a choice.  What It learned though, is that by sticking with the choice it was more of a challenge.  And I learned more about manipulating acrylic paint because that became the focus and not getting the composition right . . . I had no picture in my head to perfect.

I haven’t touched charcoal for years and did very little and I really enjoyed getting my fingers in there . . . it was a great way to warm up.

Charcoal on brown paper: 32 x 43 cms or12.5 x 17 inches. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Charcoal on brown paper: 32 x 43 cms or 12.5 x 17 inches.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I like details, little squiggly details . . . even in charcoal.

Little squiggly details add to the texture. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Little squiggly details add to the texture.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I enjoyed the limitations place on us by the exercise because it allowed a certain freedom to experiment.  Being pushed out of my default way of working also meant I learnt more.

I loved painting BIG with a BIG 2 inch brush and I’d like to have a go at painting BIGGER with a BIGGER brush.

Acrylic 90 x 65 cms or 35.5 x 25.5 inches Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Acrylic 65 x 90 cms or 25.5 x 35.5 inches
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Tiny pops of colour can make a big difference . . . even of a big painting.

The little scarlet dots made all the difference. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

The little scarlet dots made all the difference.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

And this morning?  How do I feel this morning about the images?  I can see what needed a little more thought when I sketched out the original image and what could be changed now so using the ‘step away’ assessment more would have been helpful yesterday.  And I still like what I liked yesterday, especially those little scarlet dots.

Goals achieved (have fun and learn something), a great day . . . thanks Gill

 

 

moving on to the past . . . in a new way

A departure to a past love, thanks to Karen Ruane‘s online course Swathed in Stitch and my imagination.

Machine and hand embroidery set in a puka leaf.

Machine and hand embroidery set in a puka leaf.   The leaf measures 28 cms or 11 inches in length.

Because I regarded the setting as an experiment and temporary, I didn’t treat the leaf in any way.

 

A change in colour after a few days.

A change in colour after a few days.  I like it more each day.

At this point I decided the setting might be permanent . . . or somewhere between temporary and permanent.  I coated the top with Mod Podge and as much of the reverse as I could reach without touching the fabric.

Machine and hand embroidery detail.

Machine and hand embroidery detail.

I am now eyeing up the puka and looking at the few yellowing leaves.