Friday, January 27, 2012

It all started with holes

Cabbage white (2005)
This winter, on my way to shower every morning I have looked out of the window at next door's veg. patch, and admired their cabbage leaves.  I love their sculptural shapes.  And indeed I have been thinking about cabbages for other reasons recently.  (Not least because now is a good time of year to eat them!)  And also in looking for design inspiration for my printmaking classes I looked more closely at the above image.
Crambe maritima
Amongst recent photos I took at Dungeness were some of sea cabbages which proliferate on the shingle.  In November it was their skeletons which attracted my attention.
For whatever reason - the contrast of the regular grid with the natural form of the leaves, or perhaps a symptom of my control freakery - I am drawn to photograph cabbages under netting.
One year despite netting over my own cabbages the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly had a banquet!  The resulting lacework of holes was magnificent, however, so I photographed them, and decided somehow to make a piece of work from those photos.  I scratched my head over what to do for a long time until I turned my thoughts towards the caterpillars and the holes.
So, I stitched the whole of a piece of off white silk noil, which would become the background and support.  On the computer I whited out the holes and took away extraneous elements.

I heat transferred six or seven of these onto silk habotai.  The result stiffened the silk, and also was double-sided, having also printed onto the cotton which I had under the silk.  I used the same piece of cotton under the silk, and so used that as my base for the figure, which was stitched densely by hand.  I cut out all the holes from each sheet of silk, and then arranged them on the white background, catching them in a few places with a couple of stitches.  I was so pleased with the result that I have the framed piece hanging on my studio wall.  The silk has darkened a little, but retains more green than is evident in the photo above, and I think still looks good.
I never grew cabbages again, however!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts-a-plenty; but none pinned down

I don't really have anything to put in a post these days.  This is not to say that I am not thinking; simply that I have no thoughts coherent enough to roll into a bead ready to thread.  My head is full of thinking: ideas whirling around as I tentatively try different methods of printmaking, and as I fumble through my ragbag of designs to try out with those methods.  I have even put up one of my own images as a pinboard on this blog because I want it to jump out at me regularly.
The image above is made up of a scanned small section of a monoprint experiment, with a figure drawn on digitally.  The swirl in my head brings forth various doodles like this, which could possibly develop into 'real work' - but somehow the maelstrom of thinking is also raising a question: why? Although I feel a compulsion to work at developing images, I'm not sure to what purpose.
I'm drifting a bit, not rowing, but allowing a current to pull me along while I dandle my hands in the water.  I suppose, to paraphrase W.H. Davies, now that my life is no longer full of care, I have the time to stand and stare.  It's just a state to which I'm having difficulty adjusting myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are we lost?

It's just that there seems to be a lot of 'mapping' around at present.  In 2003 a friend and I saw an exhibition at the James Hockey gallery in Farnham: The map is not the territory iii.  (This was the third exhibition, after i and ii, and before Revisited.)
I bought the catalogue, and thought that the concept was an interesting one, which then faded into the back of my mind.  Indeed I was not aware of the Revisited exhibition.
Then, more recently I became vaguely aware of Katherine Harmon's book You Are Here: Personal geographies and other maps of the imagination.  This was brought more sharply into focus when I signed up for a drawing class to take place next month which uses the book as a jumping-off point.  Katherine Harmon has also published The map as art: contemporary artists explore cartography.  (I acquired the former, but decided that I could live without the latter.)
Then along came the Winter 2012 issue of the Surface Design Journal, and here we have mapping again.  First in an article about innovation there are mentions of Anne West's Mapping: The intelligence of artistic work, Moth Press, Maine College of Art, and then later in the journal there is a review of an exhibition - Traces: Mapping a journey in Textiles.
'Mapping' is obviously increasingly a buzz word.  I only signed up for the drawing class because it looks more interesting for me than the others available, and I need a personal shake-up.  Journeys and maps have always been of interest, so why not?  Now it seems I'm going to be on a bandwagon - but will coming up with our own maps help us find the way?

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Yesterday I finished reading Jane Stevenson's excellent biography of Edward Burra.  I wanted to read it all around the Pallant House exhibition, and was glad that I had the relaxed time to do so.  Both the book and the exhibition have reinforced my desire to draw more.  This is something which was spurred by my printmaking classes.  It is so easy to get into habits and laziness around them when restricted to one mode of working - drawing, in my case.  I have become so used to drawing on the computer that I suddenly felt constrained when faced with monoprint or drypoint requirements.  I also so miss working with my soft pastels.
Reading David Hockney's conversations about his working methods recently also reinforced my determination to explore drawing and to widen my experience.  I was amused to read the article in today's Guardian newspaper where he makes a dig at artists like Damian Hirst using other craftspeople/artists to produce his works.
So, I have completed a first pass reading of  the excellent Contemporary Drawing by Margaret Davidson, which I'm sure I shall return to.  Just as I shall re-read a present from Christmas 2009: On Line: Drawing through the 20th Century.  And I am about to start reading and working with Drawing Projects: An exploration of the language of drawing to loosen myself up, and to discover/re-discover what it is I like to draw, and how.
I have also booked myself a treat of a long weekend of residential drawing workshop next month.

This is all part of my plan to sort myself out.  The studio is taking shape, and I have even started work on an experimental piece. 

Sunday, January 01, 2012


This year I am determined to sort myself out.  I've already started on the practical side by beginning the move back into our annexe.  Previously my occupation of that space was what I called my studio, but after my mother came to stay with us, and then became ill, first the computer, and then other things moved into the main house, so that the room remaining to me was nominally the sewing room, but in reality it was the dumping room.
Now I can call it the studio again.
I have so much to sort out, including unfinished items - who doesn't?  And like so many others it is difficult to decide what to do with them.  Well, I have found an excellent spur to help me deal with such dilemmas.  Mentioned in the current issue of Embroidery is the Unfinishable project.  They have been and are still gathering unfinishable items which they will document, and will thence become part of a large textile piece.
I have parcelled up my piece The pose to post to them.
I designed and prepared this in a hurry when my mother went into hospital - so that I would have something small to stitch when with her.  I stitched it all, except for the purple: intensive, all over stitching while she was dying.  And so I cannot bring myself to finish the piece, nor simply to throw it out.
The Unfinishable project is an ideal solution for me, and has made me feel even more positive about the sort out.  A good and interesting start to the year.