The best laid plans

Full Cora heavy shadow

I mentioned on the last blog post that I am training to be a human celebrant.  Essentially this means that I am training to do secular christenings or namings, as we call them.  You could also call them welcomings.  Children are named and welcomed into their families and the equivalent of godparents are appointed.  They are good if parents aren’t religious, or if they come from different faith traditions, or they want the child to be able to choose for themselves later on.  I asked my mentor why people would choose to have a ceremony at all if they don’t believe, expecting her to come up with a philosophical answer about the need for ritual and marking life stages and so on, but she said that essentially it is a day for celebration and basically for having a party.  Fair enough.  Anyway, that it is what I am hoping to do next year.  I am 7/8ths of my way through my training which I have loved.

Now, I don’t want to spend much time on this because this is a textile blog, and not a humanist one, but I do have a problem.  Because I am starting out, I don’t have much to put on my website or facebook page or all the other media things you have to do these days to advertise your services.  So, I thought that I could have pictures of toys, particularly as people are rightly reluctant to let you put photos of their children on the web without express and detailed permission.  I thought it would be good to make some of these toys to photograph and so sat down to make some.  The results have been rather startling in several cases which I will post as I get round to it, but this one has been particularly interesting.  Meet Cora:

Cora without shadows

Cora here is so called because the stitches on her chest turned into a heart:

Cora chest

She is meant to be a nice plushie for a small child.  The only problem is that she has this fantastic snout, like a wolf:

Cora heavy shadow

And those beautifully embroidered (if I say so myself) eyes which a baby cannot chew off, but which are beady and rather sinister.  She does like to dance in the sunshine:

Cora dancing in a funny light

But even the Medieval Historian, my staunchest supporter, thought she was a bit sinister.

On the positive side, she is made from a remnant of something I bought in Stof and Stil’s sale, which is a brilliant fabric, pure wool, I think, which does not fray and is tougher and nicer than felt.  I have no idea what it is.  Would it be Melton?

More to come, particularly pigs.

 

In case you thought I had disappeared

Leaves

I am very sorry that I have not been posting much recently.  Life has rather got the better of me from domestic disasters to family ill health, to starting a whole new life.  I have now retired from the University of Bristol and am starting what I grandly call a portfolio career.  This will consist of running Pomegranate Studio, starting to sell my textiles and being a humanist celebrant taking non-religious naming ceremonies.

That’s quite a lot to take in and also quite a lot to work on.  I have also managed to set-up on-line banking, which I consider to be one of my achievements of this year.

There will be more about this as the portfolio is properly opened, but for now, I wanted to show you an image of one of the things that I am hoping to sell through my Etsy shop.  There isn’t much in the shop at the moment as I just wanted to bag the name PomegranateAnn, but I will be adding more.  I have decided to sell some small pieces.  I have always found it extremely difficult to sell my work as it is a part of me, but needs must at the moment.  The problem is that making to sell, rather than making because I want to make is difficult because it always feels very different.

This is in the Etsy shop:

Full piece

It’s really very pretty and quite a wintery piece.  Unusually for me is that the fabrics used are all my hand-dyes.  This second piece did not behave quite so well.  It came out as a trapezium.  I quite like that because it makes it look particularly handmade, but I can see that it won’t appeal to everyone.  It is made from samples of neutral pale fabric, mainly linen and silk.   I also used some very chi-chi Japanese organic embroidery thread for the leaves and stem:

leaves detail

This is a really interesting venture for me – to see if I can make a living outside the university, and to see if I can reinvent myself.

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Pheasant/Phoenix

Pheasnt phoenix

I am hardly ever proud of what I have done.  I follow a curve of getting very excited about something and then thinking it’s a pile of rubbish.  I am with all those artists who say that there is massive frustration in what is in your imagination or mind’s eye and what you are actually able to achieve.  But, for once, I am absolutely delighted with this piece, an embroidered fabric collage of some sort of bird.

I started this piece on a lovely weekend at the wonderful Shore Cottage Studios on the Wirral.  I have written a lot about this magical place on my blog before.  This time I went with my Grate Frend, Mike, who is a brilliant maker of fabric collage, and who I thought would like the studio and Sue, who was our tutor, and fabric dyeing (all of which he did).  We went for a walk on the beach and gathered some inspirational stuff: stones, feathers, crab shell, seaweed and so on.  Then we did some drawing and in the afternoon some microwave and rust dyeing.  The following day we started to make our pieces.

I found all this so exciting that I couldn’t sleep on the first night, so I did some sketchbook work and got prepared for the following day.  This is my sketch of what I intended to make:

Wreath sketch

It’s a pretty wreath with all those elements we found on the beach.  I went on to work out all the stitches I would use, and was ready to go.

In my hotel room, however, was a copy of House and Garden, which I very seldom read as the houses really are grand, and my house is not.  But it had a picture from an exhibition at Waddeston Manor:

Pheasant original photo

I thought he was rather magnificent, although rather more striking than pheasants I have encountered.  Anyway, I ummed and ahhed, but finally decided to make a pheasant rather than a wreath.  I used the fabric that I had dyed the previous day and supplemented it with a bit from Sue’s stash, and in the bottom right hand corner a pale turquoise piece that Mike had dyed.  I very carefully hand-appliquéd a rosy red piece for the body using the needle-turning technique.  Bit of a daft mistake.  No-one can now see my exquisite (!!!!!) hand appliqué and it meant another layer to stitch through, and it was thick by the end as much of what I used was weighty furnishing fabric.

It is one of my new-found pleasures of retirement that I was able to take it home and work on it the following day.  Here are some details of the feathers:

Wing feather details

I hope you can see from this photo that I over-dyed some printed fabric – you can see the white lines of the botanical design.  I stitched into that with some of the hand-dyed threads we produced.

Feather stitch detail two

This shows the next layer of feathers which were stitched with a variety of threads, some commercial and some from the workshop.  This was the first stitching and really brought the piece to life and convinced me to keep working into it.

Phoenix feather stitch detail

These are the same feathers showing how the embroidery secures them but also allows them a 3D effect.  It also shows some of the fraying I did on the feathers’ edges.  My fingernails did not thank me for it.

Back of head feathers

These are the back of the neck detail feathers.  The stitching here is with a very fine variegated silk thread produced commercially.

Feathers three

This shows the beads I put on his chest.  I bought them for the project and astonished the woman in the bead shop by my speed of choice.  The darker faceted beads really catch the light.  I wanted to use the turquoise ones to try and capture his brilliant flashes of jewel colours in the photograph source material.

The other things that I knew were going to be really important in this piece were the beak and the eye.  I wanted him to look very proud and fierce and defiant.  I left the features until last because I knew that they could easily ruin the whole thing which is a bit silly when you think about it, but I knew if I got it right they would bring him to life.  So, I deliberately exaggerated his beak and make him much more raptor-like:

Pheasant beak detail

I used the Anna Scholz gold fabric I described in my last post, and then I stitched over it with fine cotton perlé to knock the gold back a bit, and also to give it the 3D curve of a beak.  I tried very hard to integrate the gold into the face, as it can jump out, but I think it sits okay here.

Then I went onto the eye and thought about several ways of approaching it, including painting it, but in the end I went with a simple satin stitch in black perlé cotton and a small pearl bead:

Eye detail

I really wanted that evil glint in his eye, and I think it more or less worked.

I am really pleased with him, but as I was stitching it, I thought, it’s not a pheasant at all, it’s a phoenix, and not to come all over poetic and wacky woo woo, I think he is symbolic of my new life after being a university teacher for so long.

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A joyful piece from leftovers

Leftovers hanging

If you have read previous posts on this blog, you will know that I hate throwing things away.  I also like to make other projects with the leftovers of previous pieces.  This little wallhanging is a good example of this.  It is made with leftovers from a much bigger piece which I showed at the last Bristol Quilters exhibition:

IMG_0521

I started the piece with this tiny leftover square:

Leftovers centre

Those half triangles in the centre are about 1 cm-1/3″ square and are the trimmings from a block where you sew a small square to a big square and then press it back to give you another shape:

images-1

I also included more leftover strips using Kaffe Fassett and Philip Jackson fabric which I had stitched together to form one long random strip which you can see on the outer rows of the small piece.  I was really pleased to be able to use this gold fabric:

Leftovers gold

I got this in an Anna Scholz sale.  Whenever people compliment on a frock or coat, it is always by Anna Scholz.  Occasionally she sells off really luxurious fabric off the roll at ridiculously cheap prices for fashion students.  Somehow I got an invite and then to meet Anna, who was lovely.  I had to stagger back to the tube with all this stuff, but the bargains were stupendous.  The gold would not have cost more than a fiver a metre, but it takes hand stitching really beautifully.  Pulled the stitches quite tightly to give that rippled effect.  I had intended to do more stitching on the piece, but the fabrics were too ‘shouty’ and didn’t need more detail.  You can just see some fly stitch in the top left hand corner of the above picture.  I more or less left it at that.

I now have to decide what to do with it.  It is cushion-sized, but I think I would prefer it as a small wallhanging.  For that I will need to do the binding.

The thing I thought was interesting, though, is what a happy piece it is.  I can’t help but wonder if this is because it was the first piece of patchwork I did after I got my retirement options sorted out.  The piece came together in an afternoon, and I think expresses my delight at being able to get on with the next phase of my life.