Wednesday, 19 July 2017


It's been one of those weeks!
For starters, I waded through Monday morning without a clue as to what I was going to do for my weekly art project, and then once I had found a starting point, life's little interruptions meant a stop-start approach to my working practice.  Something that doesn't put me in the best of moods!!!!  Oh the joy of a solid block of time in which to work!

Nevertheless...we are here & you are wondering why I have a stunning Iznik tile as a visual aid to the start of my blog today?!

An interesting article on the significance of the tulip in Ottoman design, led me to recollecting my wonderful visit to Istanbul a few years ago.  I was particularly wanting to see what 'tulip' inspired tiles I had managed to photograph.

Easier to view were my set of coasters! 
AS you have probably guessed, I'd decided to have the tulip as this week's muse.  Even though the tulip is another plant that I have tried and failed to grow in my garden, each year I buy bunches & pretend that they have just been plucked from our own carefully tended soil!

Thankfully I had taken a few photos of my most recent bunch, so with the stylized  tulip designs of the Ottoman Empire in the forefront of my mind, I set about exploring the lines & shapes of the bunch I had documented before me.

I was particularly pleased with this close up photo looking INTO the tulip, & I hoped that I would be able to use that in some way.

Out came the pens & in the limited time I had available to me, I noted my observations.

I decided, at some point, that I was going to create my own tile.  Having to keep my goal of using contemporary reverse applique in each of my art projects, I then had to carefully consider what  size my motifs were going to be & how I was going to accomplish a tile effect.  The tiles generally had small motifs, with lots of additional small pattern components & twirly tendrils of line.  This was going to be an interesting challenge.

Once settled on a design format, I used the lightbox to help me trace it onto each quarter of my 15cm sq fabric block.

Before the cutting back began, I needed to create a background & wanted to use paints to bring the finer patterns to life.  I soon discovered that my paints are..ahem...a little dried up!  As were my fabric pens!  Out came the sharpies & wouldn't you know it...they bled! I cobbled together a 'painted' background with a water colour cake, fabric dye & various pens !!  By no means perfect, but it does look a little 'tile-ish' already....if you don't look too closely!!

Keeping a simple colour scheme, but choosing 3 different reds, led me to select these fabrics for my layers.
Under the sewing machine needle it all went & then out came the scissors.  Here's what the cutting back  revealed...

I am so pleased with the end result, especially given the stop-start nature of getting the WAP to this point.  The colours immediately transport me to the tiles seen lining the walls of Istanbul's Mosques & whilst my design is not particularly Ottoman looking, it is MY design & I'm pleased with it.  The test is in how it looks as a repeat pattern?

I don't need much of an excuse to use my layout app to find out!
Bold & fresh & lovely. 
A good result from a frustrating start of week!


Monday, 10 July 2017


When I woke up this morning, one of the first questions I asked myself was, "what am I going to do for my Weekly Art Project today?" 

After my usual list of start-of-the-day chores, I took the camera for a walk around the garden & took a number of photos.  We have had a nourishing amount of rain over the past few days and the plants are showing their appreciation.  There are interesting buds popping out everywhere!

Then I came to my beautiful bed of pansies. 
I love pansies....especially purple ones, and I was so happy to have a clear patch of garden that I could plant some out in this year.

As the photo above reveals, I'm not the only one who likes pansies.  I think the possums do too!  Almost ALL of them were patterned with tooth marks!

I RAGED (internally)! 
Think wailing & gnashing of teeth. 
Think screaming & pulling hair out!!

 There was only one thing to do.  I put my camera down and went for a long walk to calm myself.

During that time, I pondered whether I could turn this devastating experience into something positive.  Could I use the tooth-marked pansies as my inspiration for this week's art project?

Back home, I took a photo of every chewed-upon flower, sat down at the computer, chose my best 9 & printed them off on a sheet.

This was going to be quite a different exercise & would require an equally different approach. 

A few years ago, I participated in a workshop with the British artist Gizella Warburton.  One of the exercises she encouraged us to try involved....

....using a variety of different mark making tools...
 ....and draw outlines DOWN a narrow strip of paper instead of our usual left to right across the page.

I took each photo & studied the line those toothmarks created, then copied those lines onto my paper strips.

 The end result looked like this.

It had been my intention to then sit down with each sample & 'find' words.

I had seen the wonderful Tent panel 'Ninety-Nine Names Of Allah' at the art gallery yesterday & whilst I cannot read Arabic, I am very attracted to way the written form of the language looks. 

I like the idea of creating 'new' languages and have produced work inspired by that concept in the past.  This is a piece entitled 'The Manuscript of Hair & Now', in which both the 'language' AND the decorative borders have been designs developed by hair shed in the bathroom.  (Sorry if that grosses you out.... I have found it hilarious & fun & beautiful!!)

Therefore, it was with anticipation that I expected to look for the language within those squiggles of teeth-bitten pansy lines.

As you will know by now, I frequently use a view-finder as a tool in my design process.  This time though, my camera was still on, when I glanced down & saw close-ups of much smaller sections of the squiggle  notes.  I loved them!  Such fluid and beautiful dancing lines.  More photos were taken, then back to the computer I went for uploading, cropping and printing off  favourites.

As my weekly art project is in a square format & is a specific size (15cm square) and does require a design that I can execute using the contemporary reverse applique technique, I now needed to fine tune the possibilities.
I explored each option paying close attention to the essential lines, before making a decision about which one I would take further into fabric.

When I had been at the computer earlier, I had used some of the photo tools to 'play' with one of the images.  Whilst I am not good at directing a fine line with a mouse, I was quite excited by this little experiment & it influenced what I did with my textile process.

Here it goes...

I am so pleased with my finished piece!  I love it!  I realise that it doesnt say "a possum ate my pansies', but it does create something quite special from a negative observation!

This project has taken a lot of time & a lot of work today, but I have enjoyed every minute.  I hope it inspires you to value the beneficial & essential work of 'play' in your art making practice too. :-)

Tuesday, 4 July 2017


Over the past few weeks we have been watching this Agave bud grow taller & taller! 

It is a fascinating structure & up close it reveals a bizillion little buds bracing themselves to burst open into flower.  I have taken a number of photos & have been grateful to have had just the white wall as a backdrop, as nothing competes with the plant itself.

For this week's weekly art project I chose this photo to work from, but I used a viewfinder to focus on a much smaller area.  Using the crop function on my computer, I can show you the same section.

What attracted me to this composition were the beautiful curving lines & the contrast of two 'backgrounds'. Keep in mind that I wasn't working from this cropped & expanded image, I was working from what I could see within a small 2cm viewfinder, which compressed the visual information considerably.

Work began as it often does, with paper & pen. A few quick sketches before a more concentrated look at what I wanted to focus on. The bottom right hand exploration is what I chose to take another step further into a design.

I wanted my colour palette to be in keeping with reality, & to achieve the mixture of background greens, I chose to whip up a quick patchwork for the background, knowing that most of it would be cut away!

These then, were my fabric layer choices.

I'm sure you must be getting bored with seeing my pre-cutting photos!  But, I LOVE this moment!  It gives me such a buzz to look at this surface, knowing that with a few snips of the scissors, what I see before me will be completely transformed.  I guess this is the quiet before the storm.  This is the moment of contemplating the potential, of recognising that although I quite like these sewn lines just as they are....I'm STILL going to cut it back !

Here goes....

That wasnt too painful was it??!

Whilst I was sorry to see so much of that patchwork background go, I really like the effectiveness of the random greens.  What I hadnt realised at a conscious level until this moment, was that the texture of the white fabric mirrors the square patterning of the patchwork.  That choice of textured white was a good one, because it brings interest to the eye & it is strong enough to create contrast with my pale green tendril lines.

All in all a satisfactory little exercise!

See you again next week!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Okay, I must admit that cyclamens do not grow in my garden!
I've tried growing them, but they haven't managed to last very long.  
Because I LOVE cyclamens (especially red ones), each year I treat myself to at least one pot of them.  Therefore, whilst they may not technically be in my garden, they are, in a broader sense, an annual 'garden' experience for me!

I was hungry for a lovely deep red one when I came across this beauty & decided to bring it home.

From the several photos I took of it (with my rapidly ailing camera!), I chose this image to work from.
Off to the workroom I went...Hi Ho Hi ho it's off to work I go...!

Because I have got into a pattern of whipping out the copic pens the minute I sit down to start exploring, this time I decided to shake things up a bit &  to explore with paint from the outset.  My first little sketch (top left) really pleased me, & the seed of seeing how I could translate this into a stitched piece began to grow.

My final little painted sketch, was the one I decided to work from.  I liked the soft brown with the pinks & reds & just hoped that I could find the right colours in my fabric stash!

This was the closest I could get.

There were a couple of ways that I could have tackled this design.  I could have had the white fabric as a lower layer, & use the deepest reddy purple as my top layer before cutting my way down.  OR I could do what I chose to do...have the white as the top layer.  The technical issue with using white fabrics on top of rich colours, is that the under colours show through & muddy the white.  The way to fix this is to line the white fabric, or give it a layer of paint afterwards.  I didn't do either, because time was short & this is an exercise! was important to stop, think & acknowledge that if this were a real art-piece-making session, I would need to take the time to do that!

I drew on my cutting lines & you will notice that I drew on far more than just around the stitched lines! This is because I was about to do this....

...cut away to the background & keep the positive shape in tact for all the layers.  This is because I was about to do something else outside of my usual practice!

I carefully cut back all the 'petal' layers to the base pink, at the same time!  What I now wanted to do, was build those layers back up to cut back, one at a time.  I wanted to reverse applique before appliquing to reverse applique again!  Phew....confusing!!!

I had 4 additional colour layers for the petals.  This is how they built up...and cut back!!

This is my final result & although I am a bit frustrated that I didn't get a more accurate length into my flowers, I am very happy with the colour choices & method I used to achieve that painterly look.  It is also a shame that there wasn't a softer brown in my stash, but as I keep reminding myself....this is an exercise!

Speaking of which, I am respecting even more now, the value of producing at least one small sample when about to launch into a body of new work.  It is something I have tended to do as a matter of course for my bigger pieces, but this process is so fabulous for identifying potential glitches that I am more enthusiastic now about investing the time into that preliminary exploration.  I hope it is inspiring you as well!