Triple Writing

 

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I was at a meeting yesterday where we were discussing our research and various ways of getting it out beyond a narrow academic audience, when my colleague, Deborah Wilson, introduced me to a new term: ‘triple writing’.  This means taking anything you write and writing it up three times for three different audience.  My first thought was, not more requirements – I have to be a great teacher, researcher, administrator, and now I have to address the community and change policy and ideally be on television like the bright young things with some sort of gimmick.  But as I thought about it, I do already ‘publish’ my work.  I put it in academic journals and do presentations at academic conferences, but I also do presentations to local groups, and sometimes further afield, I exhibit my work and I blog.  I am convinced more people read my blog than ever look at the more academic versions!  I suppose I could start writing for the quilting press.  any suggestions gratefully received!

 

 

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What I did at the weekend

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This weekend was spent filling up the reservoir, as it were, as I spent a lot of time with my Grate Frend Beatriz at exhibitions and in art shops.  On Friday we went to the blockbuster exhibition about Alexander McQueen at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and on Saturday we went to the Fitwilliam Museum in Cambridge to see the Treasured Possessions exhibition.

I may get round to writing about the McQueen exhibition at some later point, but for now all I can say is that it is every bit as stunning as all the publicity for it says it is.  It is more like art than fashion, visually stunning with brilliantly chosen music.  It is disturbing and horrifying and delightful and enrapturing.  If you like beads, embellishment, fabric, beautiful technique, which you probably do or you wouldn’t be reading this, then this is paradise.  But equally you could see demons around every corner and it wasn’t hard to see why he took his own life.  So sobering as well as seductive.

On Sunday morning Beatriz and I spent some time in her studio working with what we had seen and, in my case, pouring liquid watercolour as a starting point for a design based on the impression McQueen had left on us.  This is mine:

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Treasured Possessions, on the other hand, was small and rather restrained, certainly compared with the ravishing excesses of the McQueen experience.  It was about material culture, and in particular, shopping and consumption, with a big emphasis on the eighteenth century.  Something I would never have predicted was just how lovely a set of Meissen figurines depicting people selling things would be.  The very word Meissen brings back Sunday teatime and ‘Going for a Song’ (I am that old) and ‘Antiques Roadshow’.  But these were delightful.IMG_4423

My very quick sketch of the Meissen figurines.

I got a huge amount of inspiration for my work on Laura Ashley at this show, which I will write about later, but what I really I want to talk about is an accompanying exhibition to the main show called ‘A Young Man’s Progress‘.

This is a collaboration between sisters, artist-photographer Maisie Broadhead and fashion designer Bella Newell (Burberry); and Professor Ulinka Rublack.  In it they take a remarkable book, a collection of images commissioned between 1520 and 1560 by Matthäus Schwarz of his most fashionable outfit of the year and recreate or reimagine them telling the fictional story of Matthew Smith, a young man from North London, who is obsessed with clothes.  The modern photographs are sumptuous, I think lifesize, images of exquisite clothing, but what makes them so arresting is the witty reworkings of the original picture.  Now, while the Fitzwilliam has postcards of the contemporary pieces, it does not have the corresponding images of the sixteenth century source material so I can only demonstrate using this not very lovely snapshot taken with my phone:

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So we can at least see the substitution of the North London scooter for the horse, and possibly appreciate the way the cut of the coat echoes the folds on the original tunic.  I really liked the weapon being replaced with the mobile phone in this image.

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It’s a shame these aren’t clearer but there is a very good video on the Fitzwilliam site.  I loved these photos and the process to create them because they were clever, inventive, aesthetically lovely and they made me laugh outloud.  I really recommend this little show, which is separate from the main one, and free and on until 6 September, if you happen to be in Cambridge.

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What I have been doing since it seems like forever

10425415_10153297601865774_8175496299219269779_n-1Last weekend, which was the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, things had got so bad in my sewing room that I couldn’t face going into it, and when I did I found it very hard to navigate across the floor.  It was like reverse stepping stones: I had to leap between the bags of who knows what all over the floor (see above photo).  So, I girded my loins and decided to have a tidy up and clear-out.  I knew that I had a good three days, which meant that I could do a bit at a time as I know from past experience that just clearing out is really boring and actually quite tiring.  So I spend three or four hours a day and finally finished with an hour yesterday.  I had five bin liners of assorted rubbish and one for the charity shop.

I went from this:

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to this:

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A ‘kind friend’ sent me this to taunt me:

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And it is, of course, the ideal, but it’s a scrapbooker’s stash.  Textiles, the way I do them, require a huge stash of bits which are unruly and will never stack away like these beautifully racked pens.  So, I was impressed with myself for getting the room to a stage where I can easily walk round it to find things and to put them away.

While I was doing it, though, I couldn’t help thinking about a publication called Where Women Create which has the most mind-boggling images of women’s studios and work spaces.  I bought the book when it came out with a missclick on Amazon, and my mother and I really enjoyed being cynical about it and its perfections:

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It is now a magazine, and if you put ‘Where Women Create’ into Pinterest you get a whole wadge of images of exquisite workrooms:

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I think this is a kind of pornography for women.  It presents us with an ideal of what is desirable that very few of us have the means to attain.  I don’t have the space for these remarkable rooms, even though I have the entire loft conversion to myself, and I don’t have the resources to kit it out in this beautiful way.  Fortunately, we can dismiss this as fantasy and just enjoy the absurdity of the pictures (unlike pornography itself), and the book really is a delight in its own way.

What did surprise me, though, about my own room, was just how deflated I felt after I had cleared it up, and how I haven’t really wanted to make anything since I did it.  It feels a bit like the muse was disturbed and has gone off to find a new home.   I was expecting to feel elated and proud of myself, but I just feel a bit empty.  Also, I had one of those terrible intimations of mortality: I knew that I would never have time to use all the stuff in that room.  It would outlive me, and that was quite depressing.

I would be really interested in hearing if anyone else has experienced this flat feeling after clearing up what was clearly a very creative mess – in my case.  I’m really not sure how to account for it.

 

 

Six pear notebooks

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Over the Bank Holiday weekend I have been making strenuous efforts to clear up my work room – photographic evidence to follow.  But, in my experience,  there is only so much clearing up you can do before you become bored with the whole thing and give up.  So at various intervals I did some sewing.  These six little notebooks, which are pocket-sized A6, I think, were made during one such break.  I have made them to say thanks to the people who helped me to prepare a bid for funding.  They are made from fabric which would otherwise go into landfill, plus a bit of organza in my stash.  They were very quick to make, and were one of those projects where everything just fell into place.

Over the years I have developed my own set of symbols, some of which are obvious such as oak leaves for strength, some not so straightforward: peacock feathers for authority.  Pears symbolise the imagination for me, with a bit of danger or difficulty thrown in.  In fairy stories sitting under a pear tree was asking for trouble, and in the weird Grimm fairy story ‘The Handless Maiden’ the pears are magical.  Plus, they are my absolute favourite fruit, and easy to draw!  So, they seemed appropriate to say thanks for help towards preparing a bid to do exploratory and innovative work.

They will be going to their new owners next week.  News about the outcome of the bid to follow.

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van Gogh inspiration – neutrals

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The prompt for this exercise was to use cretan stitch in neutral shades.  I felt a bit of a cheat as I used some of my lovely variegated thread from Winifred Cottage (sadly no longer available), and it worked really well instantly.  I added a bit of light brown wool over the top to show willing, but the beauty of the soft shades did all the work itself.

As happens so often with massed cretan stitch, it looked a lot like grasses.  I decided to play this up and to use some thick linen knitting yarn to make pebbles by using colonial knots.  I prefer colonial knots to french knots now as they are easier and less likely to go wrong.  I know that misshaped french knots can be useful for creating texture but I am a full convert to the colonial, as taught to me in the middle of the Festival of Quilts by Sandy Lush.  I added in some neutral looking beads and was pretty pleased with the result:

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IMG_0983IMG_0984I hope that this has some of the texture of some of the drawings that van Gogh made:

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That’s the end of the workshop pictures.  The pieces were all made on a piece of linen mix furnishing fabric with a fairly loose weave, and all done in a hoop.

van Gogh inspiration purple and yellow part deux

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This yellow and purple piece was based on experimenting with buttonhole stitch and detached chain or laisy daisy stitch.  I really liked the delicacy of stitching into the buttonhole stitch with another row in a different thread.  That got a bit overwhelmed by the layers of couching and buttonhole stitch:

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I rather enjoyed making these donuts with buttonhole over the knotted yarns.

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The main problem with finishing this off, or ‘resolving’ the design as some might put it, was that I had the original spiralling off blanket stitch ‘legs’ and the piece made no sense until I turned it round so that it looked like a buttercup type flower.  Then I decided that the purple legs could be an insect like in a Dutch genre still life:

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Finito.

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van Gogh Green and Red Inspiration

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I chose this slightly less well-know study of sunflowers for my red and green piece:

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We used straight stitches and then whipped them with contrasting colours.  I thought my finished piece looked like an aerial view of a garden.

This was the first piece we did and I wasn’t quite sure about working with van Gogh’s brushstrokes, but the layering of the fine wool worked reasonably well.  And no beads were added for once!

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The couched sewing ribbon made a lovely crunchy texture:

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From a distance the whipped stitches look like bullion knots but they are much easier to do.

 

 

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van Gogh in purple and yellow

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This is the second sample from the Vincent van Gogh workshop, this time working with purple and yellow, which co-incidentally were the colours of my school uniform.  The-Sower-Vincent-Van-Gogh

I love this combination, although it took me years ever to wear purple again after the school experience.  I am not quite sure about the finished piece, where the technique was Roumanian couching, where you use the same thread as the thread you are couching and the holding thread.  I did a little bit of that, and we practised sewing curved couching threads to simulate van Gogh’s swirling skies:

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I much preferred the technique we learned for working with thick threads which was to knot them and couch them down.  I really took to this and, although I ended up with a blob which looks a bit like a fried egg, I enjoyed using knotted yarns of different thicknesses to get a domed effect.

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As ever, it was improved by a bit of bling, in this case some bronze beads:

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I loved the way that they sank into the couching, as if they had been inlaid.

 

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Inspired by Janet Edmonds and Vincent van Gogh

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On Wednesday I went to a great workshop with Janet Edmonds which was based on working with van Gogh as inspiration.  I knew it was going to be a good day when I sat down next to lovely Nathalie who got her stuff out and told me I was welcome to use anything she had brought with her.  In the end we didn’t use that much of each other’s stuff, but the offer made for a lovely atmosphere.

The exercises were designed around one stitching working in colours inspired by van Gogh’s paintings.  So this one is based on his pairing of orange and blue:

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imagesThe stitch was sorbello which is illustrated above and is actually quite straightforward once you get into the rhythm.  I did it with thick and thin threads and strips of torn fabric.  It looked okay on the day, but I took it home and added to it, and stood back from it, and thought it looked like the sort of aesthetic you got in the 1960s and all that creative embroidery that I grew up with, the work that Constance Howard did, for example:

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The colours were okay and looked vaguely Egyptian to me, and I realised that they would look much better lifted with a bit of gold, so I stitched on some beads in the gaps left by the stitches:

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You can also see the layering of the stitches in this photo with the finer thread over the strips of silk.  I love the crunchy texture of this stitch:

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I am not that huge a fan of van Gogh.  I had my van Gogh phase quite early as my extraordinary school had a series of morning assemblies with my art teacher, the wonderful, Mrs Pandora Finlay-Broadbelt, reading from Vincent and Theo’s letters.  I just went because I fancied a day learning something and just enjoying stitching, but it turned into a lovely day and I made some things I really liked, which I will post about as I finish them off.

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