Two plus two equals four or more

 

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I think I have posted about this before, but, as some of you may know, I am following a series of prompts on the wordpress site as a way of improving my blogging.

Today’s prompt was two plus two equals four. The aim is to write something inspired by the prompt, not about it. Co-incidentally, just after reading it I was looking at a piece of work by a Scandinavian student in which she talks about the Midgard serpent. This is the huge serpent called Jormungand which is so huge that it encircles the earth and grasps it own tail in its mouth. If it ever lets go the world will come to an end.

I include the Midgard serpent in my list of dragons for the project I have been writing about recently. I know it’s a snake, but, well, I like the story and it’s my project.

But the point of the post is that I have been wondering about the project and what we are going to do with it, and why I am devoting a lot of time to something which is not that CV-friendly, but which I enjoy very much but I feel guilty when I do something on it and not a more obviously useful topic and so on.

This feels like a little gift from the universe – a little bit of encouragement to keep going. So, this unknown person is helping me with my work, which is an interesting case of two plus two being more than four.

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Dragon Hide 3

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This is the third dragon hide in my series with my Grate Frend, Beatriz Acevedo.  I am aiming for 25, but we’ll see how far I get.

This one is made from a bag of beads I got for three pounds in a sale in Hobbycraft.  I have used about half of the acrylic jelly beads which I just thought looked like dragon scales.

I started by quilting the green silk, which is a sort of pale yellowy sage green not the silvery looking green in the photos.  It absolutely refused to photograph in its true colours.

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I did some bubble quilting, then stitched on the beads with two strands of black embroidery cotton, and then because something was missing, I filled in the gaps with big seed stitches.  I started to put tiny seed beads in the gaps between the big scale beads, but they really didn’t add anything for once.  Equally putting on more of the scaly beads didn’t seem to improve the piece.  Here are the close-ups:

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I love this piece because I really like work which is heavy with beads.  This is dense and drapes beautifully.

New Year’s Day Doll 2016

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If you have read this blog fairly often, you might know that every year I make a doll on New Year’s Day.  The idea is to say something about the year that has passed or the one that is to come.  Last year I made a bonkers tall pyramid to celebrate the fact that I had found a lovely piece of theory about iceberg economies which had a lot to say about the invisible work done by quilters.

This year was a bit odd.  One of the rules of this practice is that the doll has to be makeable in 24 hours.  This year I knew that I was going out for one of my favourite gatherings of the year at a friend’s house, so I had to adapt.  The result is that this year’s doll is from a kit – a kit that I bought for £5 in the Hobbycraft sale when I went up to see my Mum over Christmas.

Making the doll was quite pleasant, as everything was cut out and the stitching holes were pre-prepared.  It is largely made of very cheap and nasty acrylic felt, which seems to be a recurring theme in the beginning of 2016, and while this was a bit grim to work with, the effect of the blanket stitch is very nice in places, particularly the hair.  I followed the instructions to stitch up the body in white which is odd as there was plenty of pinky brown thread.  I think, in the end, it improved it a bit.

The kit would teach you how to construct a doll, although why you would want to do it in blanket stitch rather defeats me as it isn’t the most robust stitch.  Backstitch would be stronger.  Anyway, it was pleasant not to have to decide on eye placement and so on.

One thing that did come out of it was about having the right tools for the job.  Last Christmas my mother gave me an inspired present: a set of doll-making needles.  Fantastic.  These really helped me to sew on the arms through the buttons quickly and easily.  I am imagining that it would have been much harder with the plastic tapestry needle which came with the kit.

I didn’t quite finish her in one day.  I had to glue on the sparkle white dots in her eyes and that took almost a fortnight to get round to doing.

I am not quite sure what she says about my life at the moment, but a few ideas are:

  1. Never prioritise a personal tradition over a great friend’s New Year’s lunch. Grate Frends, as Molesworth knew only too well, are far more important than work of any sort.
  2. I am really busy and shortcuts are okay occasionally.
  3. Having the right tools for the job really helps, but so does having a great supplier like my mother on the case.

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Big smiles all round.

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Dragon Hide No 2

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As suggested by the title, this is the second blog post on my series on dragons with my grate frend, Beatriz Acevedo.  This is another piece which has a lot of stitching on it because I had time over the Christmas break to spend stitching, which I generally do while watching television.  Christmas is good for this, otherwise I can spend hours watching the specials and become slightly goggle-eyed.

This piece started with a piece of strange stretchy dress fabric which I bought in a lucky dip bag at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October:

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It is choc-ful of lycra which makes it quite difficult to sew, but if you distort the fabric it just springs back, so it is hard to make a mess of.  I thought it looked like a reptile hide, and so I backed it over some very heavy yellow silk and a thin curtain interlining and then stitched into it.  I tacked it down using fly stitch, which I use a lot, but which went a bit odd when I decided that I liked it portrait rather than landscape.  I fixed this by stitching over the top with more fly stitch:

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and then I added a lot of beads which I had got very cheaply in the Hobbycraft sale in Nottingham with my mother.  The whole thing jumped into life, though, when I added some tiny red seed beads:

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just enough to move the eye around.  I remember from some distant history of art class that medieval stained glass artists often put dots of red around the edge of windows as the eye reads these as a frame.

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I enjoyed working with this unusual fabric and making a magical pelt whether or not it has been splashed with dragon blood…

Well fancy that

 

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If you saw yesterday’s post, you will remember that I am working on a blog improvement course set up by WordPress.  Today’s exercise was to look at the title of the blog and the tag line.  The title of my blog isn’t very exciting, but it does mean that it is easy to find.  The tag line is also quite dull.  The advice is to make it funny, or punning, or playing with a proverb or common saying, and I can see that would make it a lot more memorable, but my tag line ‘Academic Quilter at the University of Bristol’ more or less sums it up and I don’t want to change it.  But imagine my surprise when I looked at it and it said ‘Academic Quilter at University of Bristol.’  I have been blogging for, what, five years, and never noticed that missing ‘the’.  So, that’s one New Year’s job that I didn’t even know I had sorted.

Happy New Year – and this blog revisited

 

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I have been blogging now for quite a bit, and so to get a bit of a refresher, I have joined WordPress’s Blogging 101 tutorial group.  The first exercise was to introduce yourself and/or to refresh your ‘About’ page.  Just in case you are interested, here is my revised page.

 

My name is Ann Rippin.  I am a reader at the University of Bristol in the Department of Management.

My research is centred on the role of cloth in society.  This covers everything from how we organise to produce cloth to why we keep certain items of clothing, to how we form our identities through what we wear, to the importance of what I call Hestia crafts in women’s lives.  Hestia crafts are to do with creating a home, after the Greek goddess of home and hearth, Hestia.  There is very little to do with fabric that does not interest me.   And so, to me, it is perfectly natural that as part of my research, I create quilted and embroidered textiles about the companies I research or some of the themes that I am interested in such as organisational excess, or foundation narratives.   I have set up my blog for people who are interested in my work and want to follow my new pieces as they emerge.

My big project at the moment is about Laura Ashley.  This is partly for me to explore narrative approaches to work, but also for me to do a bit of homage to the woman who got so many quilters in this country started.  I am wrestling with whether I should include a photo of my first quilt, which is old and disgraceful, but which was made with some Laura Ashley fabric, which I bought in the 1980s in Cardiff, as well as some Liberty fabric.  Quilters will recognise this pattern!

I have also just taken over as the co-editor of Culture and Organization, which is a scholarly journal for people who study management.  Prior to that I was Chair of SCOS, the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism (www.scos.org) which is a scholarly organisation of about 1000 members from all over the world, although mainly Northern Europe, dedicated to exploring the more interesting, unusual and provocative elements of business and management research.

 

Dragon hide no 1

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The theme of my favourite conference, SCOS, this year is The Animal, and my grate frend, Beatriz and I have decided to do some work together.  We are going to make a piece each week for twenty-five weeks, (deep breath) based on the dragon.  Beatriz mainly works on paper and in mixed media, and so she will paint; I am going to use a lot of cloth.  We are working on the dragon because it is the SCOS emblem, and that of many of the cities we have visited with the conference over the years.  We thought a mythological beast might bring something extra to the proceedings next year in Uppsala.

So this is my first offering.  I made it over Christmas when I had plenty of time to do colonial knots in front of the tv.  I decided to do a dragon pelt.  It is a variation on clamshell patchwork.  When patchwork had its big revival in the 1970s, the how-to books were full of how to do this form of piecing.  If you look closely at them, however, the finished items are really pretty small.  This is because it is really fiddly and time-consuming and requires the ability to get a smooth curve on every single piece.  There is often a reproduction of this piece of antique clamshell, which I think is in the Victoria and Albert’s collection:

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That sort of green piping suggests to me that this was made by someone with a great deal of leisure who wanted to show her fine needlework skills to the marriage market.  Be that as it may, the examples in the books are usually cushions, spectacle cases, bag flaps and, surprisingly often, owl chests.

I decided to avoid the tricky piecing and gathering that long curved edge by making mine out of felt:

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This is very cheap felt from Hobbycraft.  I would have liked to have used some of the gorgeous handmade woollen felt that I see at the quilt shows, but just after Christmas a trip to the retail park was pretty much all that was on offer, so I decided to use this pretty nasty acrylic stuff.  It has a nasty, almost squeaky texture, and it only comes in pretty garish colours, but it is really forgiving.  I stitched the clamshells onto some old curtain interlining:

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and stitched it down with what looks like black, but which is actually a very dark brown, embroidery floss, two strands.  Both fabrics are springy which meant I could pull the clamshells about to fit as much as I liked.  Then I decorated with deliberately free-hand cut contrasting circles and put them on with straight stitch and colonial knots.  I always use colonial knots since I had an impromptu tutorial at the Festival of Quilts with Sandie Lush.  The are much easier to do than french knots and they hardly ever go wrong.

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I wanted a really folkartsy feel to this piece.

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I wanted to invoke the embroidery that I had grown up with, but also to make the piece feel like something you might find tucked away in an ethnographic museum somewhere.

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I was thinking about the sort of embroidery on the right-hand side of this instruction booklet which I found on the web, the sort of thing my mother did in the seventies in her modern free-embroidery classes.  My attempt was the opposite of fine needlework.  Overall, I think it worked quite well to give me a dragon pelt:

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I can’t help thinking that a dragon pelt is a good thing to have.  I am sure that one like this would be protective, which is not a bad thing to have at the beginning of the new year.  Dragons as protectors is something that Beatriz and I want to look at because it is the other side of dragons as hoarders and fierce, attacking defenders.  So in some ways, this is a (very small) safety blanket.