Possible inspiration – Warsaw style



I am temporarily back from my travels, which included a trip to Warsaw to the conference of an organisation I chair (www.scos.org).  Warsaw is a fascinating place which really brings home the reality of the violence of the last century.  A great deal of the old town has been rebuilt to restore the capital to its former glory as a way of asserting Polish identity.  This means that what you think is really old on closer inspection turns out to be a modern rebuild, which I think was the case with our hotel, which was lovely but not the Edwardian palace it looked like.

The art deco feel was rather magnificent, though, (and only affordable through an internet deal).  These are some pictures of it which might one day serve as a starting point for a piece of work:

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All very Klimt-y.  The final two photos are of a cut work leather panel which was very stylish:






Final touch piece




I have been having a burst of energy finishing the touch pieces for my paper at the weekend on Walter Benjamin.  I have been reading more about him and apparently he loved the baroque and the piling up of fragments.  Hurrah, as that’s pretty much how I like to work.  This piece again uses leftovers, this time, rather surprisingly, the substrate for the applique is a few recycled zebra-striped dog poo bags which were ironed together to make plastic paper.  I managed  to get a distressed effect on one piece which I put over this fantastic pink furnishing fabric:



But this piece rather proves my point to myself that I find it very difficult not to embroider things.  I was stitching the plastic paper to the velvet when I thought how much the circles looked like a lion’s mane, and also that the little flags at the top which I had already put on, looked vaguely circus-y.  I really dislike circuses, by the way, but I think I was feeling a bit whimsical.  This is one sweet-faced lion, made from a sample of furnishing silk, hence the random stripe:


Just in case you are interested, the poo bags came from a bargain shop and turned out to be false economy.  Only the first five bags on the roll were actually bags, after that they turned into plastic sheets with no ‘seams’.  But they do make nice plastic paper if you iron them together under greaseproof paper.  You can use plain supermarket plastic bags which are usually white and rub paint into them, but the animal stripes do most of the work for you.

Second of my touch pieces


When I first started the Walter Benjamin ‘Destructive Character’ piece, I thought I would do something around deconstructed stitching, which went through a bit of a vogue in the 1990s.  Basically it’s a piling up of stitches which you then cut into, and sometimes put some gesso or paint over.  This is the three stages demonstrated on this piece:


In this example, I have used a really thick thread, and on the cut stitches on the extreme right I have put on one of the specialist artists pastes, this one with pumice in it.  There are a few colonial knots thrown in.

It is another piece where I work with rubbish.  The strawberry panel is made with layers of cheap tissue that you get when they wrap up something in a shop with a photocopy underneath the final layer.  It is all put together with dilute pva glue.  The photocopy was tinted with coloured pencils before the final layer was glued on.  That’s why it is slightly glossy.

I am not that thrilled with this piece.  It does demonstrate the technique, but the elements don’t go together.  The pumice part has nothing to do with the strawberry.  I might add in some more strawberry elements when I get home, but at least the technique part at the bottom works.

First of my touch pieces




I am currently working on a series of touch pieces for my talk at SCOS at the weekend.  I can’t cart the book itself all the way to Poland so I am making the equivalent of a touch table.  This one is playing with Benjamin’s interest in scavenging.  Everything in it, apart from the thread, would be in landfill if not recycled into this little panel.  The pink panels are an experiment stamping fluid acrylic onto shocking pink tissue paper.  I put some acrylic wax over the top to make it stronger and them machined it down in a spiky pattern to match the bare trees.  The ‘sky’ is two pieces of acrylic voile hand stitched onto some cotton wadding and the bottom part is some newsprint which accidentally got an animal stripe pattern transferred when I was making some plastic (bag) paper with a hot iron.  Then embroidered with black perle cotton to echo the branches.


I might do a bit more to this when I get home and have access to more stuff – so for instance I would like to add a pale winter sun.  I like it more than I thought I would given that it was made as a throwaway piece.  I think it’s worth finishing properly.

Watch this space





There is likely to be a gap in my postings for about ten days while I do some travelling.  If I can find a wifi connection I will blog, but you never know.  Normal service will be resumed on my return.

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Our love is here to stay




I have finally more or less finished this artist’s book on Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Destructive Character’.  I am mightily relieved as the conference paper is a week on Sunday and I have run out of time to do any more on it.  I really love the finished piece, and feel very sure that it is not the last thing I will do on the subject – I have just found Susan Sontag’s essay on Benjamin which needs to be worked in, for example.  So, this is all a bit in haste, but it is what I have been working on.  I can’t take the book with me because it is enormous and heavy, so I have had to make some touch pieces which I will put in a later blog.  I had a year to do this, and here we are – right down to the wire, as they say.  So here are my not very brilliant pictures.  I don’t have time for much of a commentary, but I hope you just like looking at the photos.

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I absolutely love working with Benjamin’s ideas, in fact, he is my unlikely muse.  So, even though this mammoth project is over, our love is here to stay.


Why didn’t I know about this shop?


I have driven past this little shop which is on Stokes Croft many times and thought it looked interesting, but it is a bit too close to a rum part of Bristol for me to want to go in.  I thought it would be full of horrible handmade stuff, because it is in a very boho/charity shop area.  Just shows how prejudiced I am.   This shop is paradise.  It sells beautiful books with pop-ups or particularly lovely illustrations, it sells gorgeous notebooks and not a Moleskin (much as I love them) in sight.  It has great prints.  It sells small print run art books.  And, and this is the best bit, it has the most wonderful range of magazines.  So, it had the first English edition of Flow magazine, plus the usual favourites like Selvedge and Oh Comely.  It has a wide range of arts magazines, and even the foodie magazine par excellence, Lucky Peach.  There are also cards and washi tape and a few very well picked rubber stamps, but if you are a total print junkie like me, it is a paradise which hoovers money out of your purse very quickly.

The only downside is that the man who seems to run it is extremely shy, so I tried to start a conversation with him and it was clearly a massive effort for him to look me in the eye.  He was nice, but I wasn’t going to get the story of why he started the shop and how on earth it keeps going.  But if you live in Bristol and want a present for someone it would be a brilliant place to start.  I will definitely be going back, even if parking is a nightmare.

Lucky Peach.