Saturday, February 27, 2016


There are many textile collections which I have wanted to visit over the years.  One, brought to my attention a couple of years back by the excellent Kate Davies, is at Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, England.
After some months of closure for restoration work the Hall is putting together an exhibition of textiles with obvious restoration.  A few days ago they put out an open call for examples of such
I have some pieces made by my maternal grandmother, and which she herself had mended.  I must look at whether they are perhaps worth considering.  Her embroidery is rather like that in the image immediately above.

All images from the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection online gallery.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Losing my marbles?

Vincent van Gogh: Eternity's Gate (image from here, and more information here)
I cannot believe it.  I cannot find my book project for which I cut the alphabet.  I must have put it in a place that I cleverly (!) thought was appropriate, and now have forgotten where.  I clutch my head these days as elements of my memory are slipping away.  No longer can I trust myself, and it is becoming vaguely alarming.
What makes this state of affairs even more disconcerting is that I used to have an abnormally good memory, and for trivial items which endeared me to the huge extended family of relatives, and to colleagues too.  It smoothed my path at work, and it became essential for caring for my mother.  But now odd wearings away appear: names disappear although I can remember all other details about the person.  Nouns also scuttle off as soon as I reach out for them - I can see the item in my head, I can even describe it in words, but can I name it?

But this loss of my project is yet a stage further, and is mildly worrying.  I am (was) logical, practical, and reasonably tidy, and for two days now I have looked everywhere - I think - where I would normally have put the stuff.  I'm still calm(ish), and will not panic, and today is concerned with different matters, so will allow the retrieval elements of my memory a rest, so that like the names and nouns which pop up later than needed, it can give me a hint as to where to look.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Levels of light

Immersed in reading and thinking about Peter Davidson's The Last of the Light: About Twilight, both the contents and the cover led me finally to order Duncan Macmillan's monograph on Victoria Crowe.  The latter arrived yesterday, so I have spent a deal of today reading it and looking closely at the pictures.
Victoria Crowe captures different levels of light beautifully, especially the winter light of the Borders of Scotland, both outdoors and indoors - the latter an even trickier ask.  On the other hand she also captures the indoor light in Venice, and the light through a window in both situations. 
Victoria Crowe: Considered silence (image from here)
I respond personally to these atmospheres.  I have experienced and enjoyed both of these light manifestations.  In reading of Crowe's development I was interested to learn that she also was fascinated by Orthodox icons.  I am also very interested in her compositional division of the picture plane.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cutting an alphabet

I have finally got round to cutting a block alphabet for my Red Letter Memoir book project.  The raw material is conveniently shaped erasers.  I looked for a suitable free alphabet online - something along the lines of bold Gill sans - i.e., simple and chunky, and printed it out mirrored.
After I traced each letter onto the eraser - three letters per eraser except for M and W which are wider - I cut them with a scalpel.
Now they are ready for me to try out with some ink.  I have plenty of erasers left should I need to re-cut some of the curved letters which were the most fiddly - although I do not want perfection in any case as I am going to accompany the headline letter with my handwriting.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Crisp sunny morning at the Winter garden ... then an afternoon in the print kitchen

This morning the weather forecast predicted sunshine, and so we drove a few miles south to Hillier's Arboretum which has a now well established Winter Garden.  We were not disappointed.  Here are some of my snaps:
Flowers were the object of my print proofs: from one side of the double plate I finished carving yesterday. 
My background paper is also an experiment: 42gsm Kozo paper prepared for inkjet.
I want the colour to come from the background paper rather than from the print flowers, so I inked up the plate with grey.
Perhaps I will use a paler grey next time.  The figure outline has to be printed on top once the ink is dry, so I'll see what the effect is then.  I will also see how well the paper stands up.  So far so good.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


A day for carving vinyl (lino) plates for a new image: one side almost completely empty, using a wide clearing tool.
The other side tight and fiddly, using a narrow tool. 
And standing from time to time, to stretch, rub my hands, and watch what is probably a great white egret rather than the little egret I previously thought. 
Whichever it is, 'tis a brilliant fish catcher.  It is having quite a feast in the wetland this afternoon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Driving to the dentist

I inherited a dread of dentists, and although unrecognisably calmer about the experience I was not looking forward to today's check up.  Added to that, our dentist is in the town we lived in last: not far, but with traffic so bad that I only go on school holidays, and have an appointment early enough to be guaranteed a parking space.  So, I left home just as dawn was about to break.

No photos because I was driving, but what a glorious experience that drive was!  A clear day with what I call a Tiepolo sky: pale blue with pink streaks and patches and wispy clouds.  I believe I call it a Tiepolo sky because of notes taken during art history lectures decades ago - not because I actually was so impressed with a painting I saw.  But fixed in my catalogue of labels it was immediately called to mind this morning.  Such skies seem to look even better when the trees' delicate twigs of fingers reach up toward the promised warmth of the rising sun.

Snowdrops were out in drifts.  Two houses in particular along the route which I had not taken for months are particularly spectacular.  And to accompany them the delicate froth of blackthorn - largely seen peripherally as I kept a close eye on appalling pot holes.  (Why is it that four wheel drivers whose vehicles are specifically equipped to cope with mud etc. drive toward the middle of the road so that us lower folk have to stop unless we wish a close encounter with pot-holes? - But it was too lovely a morning for a rant.)

At that time in the morning, through country back roads I also encountered two badgers: on alive, one dead, pairs of wheeling red kites, pheasants (some suicidal!), and a group of about a dozen young hinds.  All worth getting up in the dark for.

Monday, February 15, 2016


When interviewed, creative folks are usually asked who their influences are.  Over the years I have often wondered who among the many artists whose work I admire - who was actually an influence.  I don't know about influence, but keep coming back to Georgia O'Keeffe who was certainly an inspiration.  There was a time when my friends could have accused me of being obsessed with her work and her life.  I was even given a book of recipes from her kitchen as a present - I had already bought most of any other books that were available.
One thing that always strikes me is how much art she is part of as well as that which she created.  From the early days as Alfred Stieglitz's wife (photo above from here), O'Keeffe was the inspiration for many extraordinary photographs.  (The photo at the top of this post is by Dan Budnik.)
Photos above and below by John Loengard

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Private moments

I much admire Edward Hopper's work.  I love the way he allows us to contemplate private moments, ordinary moments.  He presents them cinematically so that they seem elevated to scenes of quiet drama, but really they are simply the stuff of life.
I first saw Night on the El Train at an exhibition of American prints at the British Museum some years ago, and like so much of Hopper's work it has stayed prominent in my memory.  Especially so perhaps because I remember how when my husband and I were courting back in the 60s we had to snatch at any opportunity to be intimate.  This could have been us.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Sea Lovers

I am very much enjoying Valerie Martin's collection of short stories Sea Lovers.  It is a strange and delightful world I step into every night at bedtime, with a section on metamorphoses - which immediately made me think about the works of Ana Maria Pacheco (the above image comes from here).
It was the review by Jane Smiley (just after I had completed reading her Last Hundred Years trilogy) that persuaded me to acquire the Martin book.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Bookbinding workshop

Pewsey white horse, image from here
Yesterday I braved the commuter traffic to travel deep into white horse countryside for a workshop.  I have been worriting around vague ideas about making a book with my work - somehow, I know not how - and through a friend heard of Lori Sauer's workshops
Because I have nothing specific in mind yet, I did not want to spend several days at a workshop, but the one day Fin Book workshop looked a good starting point.  The examples shown looked attractive, and the binding looked open and accommodating (just in case that is what I might need).
It was a sunny day, and once I had got past the traffic I enjoyed the drive - even though I did lose my way a little towards the end.  However, I did get a view of the Pewsey white horse, which I should not have done - so a bonus!
This is my completed sample. 
I discovered after I had put the cover on that I had bound only six rather than seven sections, and that all the sections were not in the same orientation - so they go up and down somewhat, as can be seen at each end of the binding below. 
In mitigation I must say that the manipulations of the binding took much concentration from everyone, some cursing, and a touch of blood spilling!  There was tension not only in the binding threads!  Also I my knackered knees were protesting at having to stand still all day with only awkward (for me) high stools to perch on, so I was not as relaxed as I would have liked.  Despite this I did enjoy the day, and after all, this is a learning sample only.
I am not sure if this binding method is what I want, but as I hoped the process has made me take on a different perspective, and placed practical possibilities in front of me.  It certainly has not put me off the larger idea, rather has moved me a little further forward - I just have more things to mull.