Monday, 23 April 2018

TREE TILES (WAP #14; Istanbul)

This month I have been focusing specifically on some of the key flora patterns found amidst the decorated tiles in the Harem compound of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.  Having looked at a couple of flowers & a few leaves, it seemed a natural progression to consider trees for this week's art project.

I have long had a soft spot for trees & the way they are represented, in a visual format, throughout the time that different communities have resided here on planet earth! I even have a dedicated sketch book for keeping my favourites in.  Therefore it will be no surprise that I went absolutely ga-ga over the cyprus tree tiles photographed above!  Tall & elegant, constructed from simple shapes & restricted colours, yet so effective! Their beauty is in keeping with the saying; "less is more"!

Naturally they were the first of my tree tile photos that I wanted to take a closer look at, but I had a problem.... I am only working with an A4 size limit!  What could I hope to achieve with such a minimal amount of space using a technique which doesn't lend itself to very small components, when inspired by such a long thin muse?????

I started with pen & usual... & decided that instead of getting all caught up in the whole of the tree, I would just focus on two sections to explore how the original artisans created this effective design.

After a couple of pen sketches, where I looked at the very top of the tree & the base where it joins the trunk, I decided to save a bit of time (ahem...always a teensy bit of an issue!!) by folding my A4 in half lengthwise & drawing a design possibility directly onto what would effectively become my pattern.  I drew onto only half, because I was going to trace that half onto the other side, open it up , and...voila....a beautifully symmetrical mirror image design!

Once I had something I was relatively pleased with, I chose my fabrics, cut them, ironed them, layered them up, copied the design onto my top layer & then stitched the design through the lot of them.

Because I was using just the one colour to form my outlines this time, and because a few of those lines could easily merge with others close by, I chose to use the stitching as an outline in itself.  This was highlighted by the use of a contrasting variegated thread.  I LOVE threads of variegated colour!  They provide movement, light & interest.  I was relieved to see that my sewing was pretty neat this time... just as well, as the down side of having a contrast is that mistakes are more noticeable!!

It was time to let the cutting back begin.  Here's how it went...

.... and then finally it was time to cut back to the background.

I am quite pleased with how this little piece turned out.  I did realise at this late stage that something was missing, which is why I added the embroidered spiral fronds.  The design needed something in that spot & as it was too late to stitch & cut back anything else, embroidery was the obvious choice.  The spirals repeat the shape at the base where the leaves meet the trunk. Using a repeated pattern like that leads to a more harmonious whole.

I have really enjoyed this month's art projects, & this delight has led me to consider whether I might make a big 'Istanbul' art piece after this series of WAP explorations.  We'll have to wait & see!  In the meantime....I played with my phone app again & this is what I came up with...

...sooooo much fun!! Until next week...happy creating!

Please respect that all photos in this blog post are my own.  Therefore, please don't use without permission.  Thank you.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

LEAF DESIGNS (WAP #13; Istanbul)

   Leaves have been on my mind quite a lot lately.  Partly because;
 - we have had bizarre weather which has included strong winds & consequently a MASS of leaf litter wrapping itself around our home like extra insulation. 
-partly because I have been thinking about a cloak art piece I made a few years ago inspired by leaves, so I got it out to relook & rethink about it.
 -and partly because this week I'm was scheduled to look at the leaf designs on the Turkish tiles & use that focus to inspired my own unique design.

Out came a handful of photos, my sketch book, pens & coloured pencils.  I like leaves, I like their shapes & colours in real life as much as I enjoy seeing how other artisans create leaf designs.  Looking at the photos of tiles & trying to draw them was a pleasurable way to spend two hours.

Yes, that really IS how long I spent on those few sketches above!

As I'd done a symmetrical pattern the last two weeks with the tulip & carnation designs, I thought I'd be consistant & do the same with my leaf design as well.  It took me quite a while to create a design I was happy with, but I must admit I was very disappointed not to be able to incorporate more of those leafy designs.  Out came the drawers loaded with fabric & after...ahem...quite a chosen few were on the ironing board & ready to be layered up, stitched through and then cut back.

Here's how the cutting back went...

And then finally...

I absolutely love this colour combination, however, I would have liked a bit more variance in tonal value between the two greeny colours.  If I were to do it again, I'd make a couple of other changes too, I'd not have the outer branches in the pale bluey mauve & I would allow myself to NOT be consistant & make this piece asymmetrical instead of symmetrical.  In this case I think that particular decision hampered my design making.

That being said, this isn't toooooo bad...even if it looks like an egg.

As I often do with outcomes that I'm not totally in love with, I played around with this design using an app on my phone.  Keeping with repeat patterns, look what I came up with...


What fun.  Then when I put them together, this was the exciting outcome!  Wow! 

Sooooooo much fun!!! 

I have absolutely no idea what I'll be focusing on in next week's WAP, but it will definitely still have me returning to the stunning city of Istanbul, source of endless inspiration!  Until then...happy creating!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

TULIP DESIGNS (WAP #12; Istanbul)

 Whilst working on my art project this week, I became quite engrossed in the audiobook I was listening to. (Entry Island by Peter May).  It is one of those cross-generational stories where a character of our present time is trying to solve a mystery that hails from several generations before.  In this case a beautifully crafted signet ring that had been handed down served as the catalyst in finding the answers.  This ring was the only keepsake from the ancestor's past.

Whilst, in itself, this story has absolutely nothing to do with the tulip tiles adorning Topkapi Palace in Istanbul... the source of inspiration for this weeks art project...  it does highlight the value of a single hand crafted object; initially made as an adornment, but is then transformed through time to become a receptacle of historic & personal meaning.

Much like another story I heard from a friend this week...which does actually include Istanbul!   My friend received a piece of tile in the post, sent from another friend's niece, who picked up this fragment of tile in the very street my friend's mother was born Istanbul... many years ago!  To anyone else that small token would be considered broken rubbish, but to my friend, it is a treasure imbued with significance & meaning. 

And someone made it in the first place.

Who knows where our creative efforts will lead us, our clients & our descendants!  Will my weekly art projects mean something to someone other than me one day?  Who knows, but for now...we have today!
 All very interesting to contemplate as one is labouring away at visual notetaking, recording as many variations of tulips as possible, from the photos one has!

Of course, if I had also included my books & the internet as a tulip-hunting sources, I may well have been drawing for days!

 There were a few design options, but I chose to go with a similar style to the one I created last week with the carnations.  I chose my fabrics, ironed them, layered them up & then sewed in my design.  This time I used a variegated thread, eager to see what (if any) difference it made to how the finished piece would look.

Then it was time to let the cutting back begin!  Here is how it went...

 As you can see, I did encounter some annoying puckering along the way!  I think this was due to the smaller size of stitch I was using. 

At this point I was somewhat disappointed with how flat the design looked.  It definitely needed a pick-me-up!  I was also aware that the effectiveness of the variegated thread was lost in the blue outlines.  The third thing I was disappointed with was the lower kind of looked...well, boring!

It was time to do some serious embellishment!
With a few beads & some embroidery, this looks much better.  I love my big red tulips with their white dots & although I might make a few changes were I to do this again, I'm quite pleased with the end result.

The Turkish tiles are such a rich source of inspiration, I think I'll keep looking at them some more next week as well.

Until then...happy creating!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018


For my first weekly art project of April, I have chosen to return to those wonderful tiles that adorn the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, to concentrate on just one of the flowers represented in their decoration.  Carnations have inspired a variety of tile designs, and interweave amidst tulips, lilies & wonderful leafy forms.  Hopefully this month, I will be able to spend some considered time with each, but was carnations!

Out came my tile photos & once again I wished I had a decent magnifying glass!  If I had been working at the computer I could easily have enlarged images, but that was not possible in this case.  The good thing about not having a perfect source to work from, is that I can fill in the gaps with my own creating...making a design that is more unique, than a perfect copy!!

From the photos, I drew whatever designs I could loosely interpret as carnation-like in some way.  I also brought out my sketch book from Istanbul.  Instead of leaving them in their black linear form, I  got out the coloured pencils & played with a few colour options.

This took rather longer than I had hoped....I've said that a few times havent I!!!!

Eventually,  all the data was collected (drawings done & coloured in), so I began to create a design incorporating some of these carnation variations.

After rummaging through my fabric stash, making choices, cutting to size, ironing, layering up & then sewing the design through them was time to contemplate the cutting back.

First though, I used my white pen to mark where I wanted my first cuts to be.

Once that first layer was cut back, the outlines were revealed, & the design started to take shape from there.

Here's what happened with further cutting back...
At last all the layers were cut back & I was very pleased with how it  looked.  I just needed to add a couple more little details for it to reach completion.

Scissors, embroidery thread & fabric pens came to the rescue & I was very pleased with how their contributions altered the way the design looked .  I'm partiularly pleased with the not-completely-mirror-image version of symetry that I have managed to achieve.  A very pleasing result...phew!

It was fun looking at week tulips... maybe???

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

ANOTHER TILE POT (WAP # 10; Istanbul)

Once again, thanks to multiple interruptions & computer crises....  it has taken me all week to complete one tiny little A4 sized weekly art project!

And once again, I have focused on a single pot shape found in amidst the wonderful foliage-oriented tiles that enhance Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Using a sketch completed last week, I leapt straight into designing for this week's art exercise.

Folding an A4 piece of printer paper in half length wise, I used my little sketch as a guideline for the shape outline of the pot. After drawing it in with pencil & then going over it with a thick black pen,  I then traced it onto the other side, revealing a beautifully symmetrical pot!

I could have worked out my design for the pot decorations in my workbook... but given the stop-start nature of my week, I chose to play with design ideas directly onto the pot shape itself.  With  frequent use of the eraser & my my circle stencils, I eventually came up with a design that could be worked in contemporary reverse applique.

The choice of fabrics was particularly critical, as I didn't aim for a bold pot this week, I wanted something that looked more intricate .  As luck would have it, I had a piece of curtain fabric in the same pattern as last week's background, but in a different colour combination. This serendipitous find was an excellent starting point for working out my colour range.

Once cut, ironed & the design transferred, it was time to machine sew the outlines in.  Then I was ready for the fun part...time to let the cutting back begin.

Here's how it went...

Before cutting back the second layer, I chose to paint some outlines before cutting away from them.  the reason for this was that I wanted to get the interwoven effect & the cutting alone wouldn't have achieved that.  Once dry, out came the scissors again...

Each stage of this process of cutting back has been fun, because each fabric brought a completely different 'look' to the piece as it was revealed.  By the time I was cutting back to reveal the background, I realised that I had somehow put more fabric layers in than I'd planned!  I'd clearly been contemplating one over another, gone off to deal with the stuff of life, come back & just included both fabrics!

Just as I felt that this bold patterned background didn't really work for last week's exercise, it hasn't worked brilliantly here either.  Having said that, it does give the effect of being part of a bigger intertwining pattern, which fits with the original source of inspiration.

I am very pleased with my pot, all things considered & am grateful for an opportunity where I could just focus on one small, yet important feature of the stunning tiles of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.