Saturday, 31 December 2011

happy New Year!

Oh what larks!  Christmas leftovers are nearly eaten, and we are just about to celebrate the New Year.  Have a happy and peaceful one if you can :)) All the best to everyone for 2012.

I have finished sewing the Japanese Landscape and will begin painting in the next day or two, so will be posting about it this week I hope.

Here's the piece with the sewing finished.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

And onwards in thought.

I may have stopped sewing, but as ever, my thoughts are continually turned towards quilts and paintings (nb I really really must do a portrait of Michel Roux Jnr - having watched Masterchef, he has the most expressive face and lovely smile!)

I shall be moving on to a quilt for the Leamington Spa exhibition next and have discovered that Laura Kemshall will shortly be doing large scale printing onto cloth on a commercial basis.  (that link is to the SiX and friends blog, where she describes what she's doing)

The quilt will be called Life (3) Switching Off. It's another one in the Life series, and will be an art quilt. In my mind there is a distinction between what I make and call art quilts, and the botanical or abstract ones. True they could also be considered art quilts I suppose, but increasingly, I have a need to make things which say something about life. I'm not always sure what, but it's quite fun to just let things evolve and be surprized by what comes out of the ether. They are also carefully considered though, before I begin the sewing process,  as I'm aware that both the Switching Off quilt and the Afraid Of Your Shadow quilt (which is in the pipeline) are about sensitive subjects.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Free machining with narrative.

I've haven't been able to stitch much in the past week, and must now clear my workspace for other things, so I probably won't be doing a lot more to the landscape piece until the beginning of January.

That being the case, if I'm not back before, A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who reads this.

 I don't think I've ever done a landscape before and I've found the stitching has turned from abstract pattern to narrative. This means that it's quite heavily free machined, but I've enjoyed the process very much, especially trying to find shapes which join together so there is as little stopping and starting as possible.

The mountains have been shaped to show incline, and to separate one from the other; the leaves veined; the sky gently moved; the grass grown; the water made to  flow; and the trees turned into small forests!!

(left) This is the next bit that has to be finished. I haven't yet resolved the foreshore stitching. It looks blobby with harsh edges which will disappear into a mass of flowers, sand and grass.

The tree, lady, and grass will then be painted.

I don't want to obscure such beautiful fabric will be careful with the painting.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

York Minster

The York Minster posting is so large that I'm doing it in two pieces, this being the first.

And a view of the Minster at night. (I was on a Ghost Walk and the Minster was our starting point....pretty, I thought)

This is the last cathedral posting - having done Worcester, Gloucester, Durham, Lincoln before this one.

York Minster is a very beautiful place. Like Lincoln, you have to pay to get in. The ticket lasts a year so you can go back as many times as you wish within that time; if I lived closer I most definitely would!

Why's it called a Minster?  Yes, it is a cathedral  (cathedra, and hence cathedral,  being an old word for the seat of the Bishop, in this case the Archbishop of York). It was built at the end of the Roman empire as a centre for the Christian faith in the north of England. Minster (from the Saxon word mynster, simply means a mission church. So it's three things; a church (a christian place of worship), a Minster, (a missionary church) and a cathedral (the seat of a bishop and mother ship to the local diocese!)

I recommend you take advantage of the frequent free tours on offer as you find out so much more than if you would by reading the leaflets or wandering around on your own. I was highly amused.

The Minster is built from magnesium limestone, and is the largest gothic church this side of the Alps, measuring 150 yards by 28 yards.

It has 128 stained glass windows, which need to be cleaned and re-leaded every 80 years. It takes 2 years to remove a window and 22 years to clean and put back in, so you can see they need a lot of looking after - hence the entrance fee I guess.

 Much of the cathedral is built out of wood, which means that it burns quite well and there have been a number of fires. In 1840 a candle started a fire and destroyed the roof of the nave (right) which had to be replaced. They tried to restore it to the original condition and did quite a good job except that there is a carving of a baby being bottle fed on one of the bosses!

If you look carefully at this photo on the left, about half way down above the right hand arch, you can see something sticking out into the Nave. This is a golden dragon's head but no one is quite sure why it's there - probably part of a mechanism for raising a heavy lid probably over the font or some reliquary long gone.

There is also a memorial to William Wilberforce in the nave. He was a Yorkshireman who led the fight for the abolition of slavery.

At the far end of the nave is the Quire. (Quire/Choir?? Quire is the place, and the Choir are the singers that sing in the Quire) It's slightly askew to the Nave because of a mistake by the medieval builders. It's still standing though, so no harm done.

 In 1829 another fire destroyed the roof and most of the woodwork in the quire, including the organ. It was rebuilt, recreating the medieval and is a most wonderous thing.  The organ has over 4,000 pipes which if laid end to end would stretch for over 4.5 miles.

The fire was started on purpose by Johnathan Martin, who spent the rest of his life in an asylum.

These rows of seats (right) are the quire stalls. They have symbols on the back of each seat which represent the various parishes in the north of England.
 The organ above the quire stalls.

This is the cathedra, or throne, of the Archbishop of York. The quire also contains 267 memorials.

Another York Minster posting soon.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Mad Leaf Making Warwickshire Woman Starts Forest

Well, that's what it seems like at the moment. I've had to stop making leaves today because my finger joints on one hand have started to swell!

So with trees in mind, I'm off to see an exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery, by my friend Michala  Gyetvai  (blog with links to Gallery) who does the most fantastic things with felt. Do have a look if you're in the area.

Whilst I'm about it, here's another link to a friend of mine who makes the most amazing clothes. If you need anything for a special occasion and want it made, I'm sure she could help!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mordor and odd weather

 I may have over-egged the mountainous regions of Japan and turned them into Mordor. I have a feeling I should be stitching Frodo in there somewhere!
 I would like to put some Japanese anenome's in the foreground, which means (and you know this sort of thing matters to me) that I can't have cherry blossom in bloom at the same time.  So, I've been checking out acer leaves as an alternative.  Choices, choices. Autumn or spring?

AND, I planted this lily in my garden way back in the spring, and it's done nothing all summer, but here we are on the 3rd December after a couple of moderate frosts, breaking into bloom.  I don't understand.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Busy, busy.

Not huge masses done to this in the last few days. I've added trees, figures, a small boat, and some hogweed. All these things are there to give depth as well as interest.  The trees will be covered in blossom and I intend putting more flowers in the foreground too.  I will then quilt and paint.

 I made a little Chinese junk for the watery bit, but then realised that Mount Fuji was in Japan, so all that work went to waste. I've swapped it for a Japanese Sushi boat.....not that anyone can tell the difference, but I'm happier!

I'm not sure at this stage whether or not this will be part of the SiXandfriends exhibition at Redditch or if it will be used elsewhere, but it's quite fun to do.

I've been busy with other things though including a lot of gardening.

You might not think there's much to do at this time of year, but it's when GALS get the ground cleared and perennials trimmed up etc.  There is always something for us to do, and it's good to get out in the fresh air and have a spot of exercise.

We thought this space between the gabions and walkway would make a really nice fragranced border...perhaps with herbs etc.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Productive Sunday

I was going to make a start on the large Life piece next, but although I have the necessary poses from a life model, I'm not happy about the quilts that make up the background yet.  I still need to play.

So, having myself a spot of space on a quiet Sunday, I decided to have a play with another piece based on the oriental theme for SiXandfriends.

 I've been looking at the woodcuts of Utagawa Hiroshige and felt inspired to attempt a landscape.

Left: white cloth with pencil outlines of what I want to put where. The cloth isn't even ironed. Hang your head in shame Rainbow.

I've been stretching people again! I just like the look of them. It's harder than it looks to do them but I've ended up with something that's nearly there (on the bottom right) The will make up a scene in the middle distance.
 Using cloth to start the collage.

Now this cloth is quite, quite special.  I bought it from Laura Kemshall and it is beautiful. I felt enormously brave slicing into it, but, what the heck, it's what I bought it for!

Below:  Then I got out the paints and started on the top part of the background, and darkening a few cloth edges.  I'm very pleased with the richness of the colours.

Needless to say, there's water and blossom trees in this somewhere, probably a big one on the right and a small one on the left.

Friday, 25 November 2011

1st, 2nd, and 3rd coats of paint on.

A Small Dragonfly
This Way, That Way, This Way, That,
And It Passes By.

Bit more to do but nearly there.

Follow the "Orientation" exhibition preparations here!

You are warmly invited to join, Hilary Beattie - Ineke Berlyn - Laura Kemshall - Linda Kemshall - Edwina Mackinnon - Catherine Nicholls  - Stephanie Redfern - Marie Roper, and myself on a new blog here (

It's an easy way for us to keep in touch with each other; what we're doing, our inspirations, thoughts and processes, and we hope you might enjoy reading about them too.  Please come and join us!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Stitching finished, painting begun.

I've decided to try and give each piece for the Orientation exhibition at Redditch Needle Museum,  a Haiku rather than a title.

Giant dragonfly:
that way, this way, that way, this
and it passes by.

(you can just see the dragonfly dive bombing the second lady's nose)

Now for some paint!

New purchases

Above is a pencil sketch done by a family friend Rich Inwood.  It's dystopia - an imagined place where things are unpleasant and environmentally degraded. I love it. He's kindly doing me a coloured version too.

And on the right is my new sewing machine. The old one (Pfaff 2046) and I were both suffering from tension.  The machine finally cracked under the pressure and has gone to have repairs.  This is an entry level Bernina (1008) and so far, I'm extremely pleased as it seems very sound and forgiving.  It's allowed me to free machine through all the things I've thrown at it so far. Heaven. I shall keep it just for free machining and use the Pfaff for more delicate things (assuming it's repairable of course)

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Being a bit slow!

One lady is stitched and ready to paint, but it's taken me ages to do. Must speed up!  Still, I'm fond of the patterning on her kimono.
The layout is done for this one too but not sure about colourways yet.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Going pear-shaped!

Well, ok, I lied;  not pear-shaped so much as celery-shaped.

 I've been playing about making people long and thin....out of proportion and stylised, but still recognizable.  It was quite hard for me to do, as I normally try hard to be accurate, so I had to make a distorted grid and scale them up gradually.

These ladies are inspired by an old concert programme for the Doyle Carte, and were my starting point for Japanese and Chinese costumes, which seem amazingly complex.

A few stretched trees, a fence, a dragonfly near a nose, and possible Mount Fuji in the background, and I'm there.

I'm off to have ENORMOUS fun making fabrics for the clothes.

Friday, 4 November 2011

World, mobile phone, peg, choccy, contraceptive pills, dummy, and snippet from new piece.

 Above the world is nearly finished.

Right: mobile phone with suitable apps, peg (because whatever happens you need to wash yer stuff) choccy, because I'd always want to take it with me, contraceptive pills and dummy because for a lot of women, children are a choice.
Snippet of new Oriental piece.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Blog update - new addresses

Hiya, this blog has now split and is being published on the following blogspot addresses:

Travels around the UK

Do pop over and say hello if you have time!

Bindweed and Wedding Ring

Breaking free from your chains doesn't mean leaving all behind you.

Some things you choose to take along with you and accept the ties they make.

Durham Cathedral

I couldn't quite get to grips with Durham as a city; it seemed very small, and without heart, but perhaps we didn't spend enough time there to investigate it properly.  We went to look at the Cathedral, and were there for less than 24 hours.

Durham Cathedral, unlike many cathedrals these days, does not charge an entrance fee, but you are not allowed to take photographs inside. They rely on sales of the guide book I think, and the images on this blog,  of the insides of the cathedral, were taken from it.

The outside.

Durham is known for its cathedral, University and Castle. We had heard that the cathedral was magnificent and worth a visit, so off we trekked.

Durham is a city, above Yorkshire but below Northumberland in the top right hand side of England. (the bottom bit of the UK)

The picture above gives the impression that the cathedral is quite austere, and it certainly is "high church".  The outside left me with an overwhelming feeling of workhouses and puritanism!

These two towers (the Western Towers) are built above the gorge and date from 12/13th centuries. They hang on the side of the hill and can be seen for miles (below)

The building is huge and is 143 metres long, and is at one end of a very pretty green opposite Durham Castle.

Many of the other buildings around the green belong to the University of Durham, including in this row, the University's Police.

The great central tower (above) is 66 metres high and was the last bit that was built, in the 15th century.

The Insides

The inside of the Cathedral is truly wonderful.

The stone pillars and roof give a feeling of an enormous strong powerful place. They are highly decorated with carving rather than with paint and gilding. I tell you, it fair takes your breath away.

 The Nave (looking East)

 The Nave (looking west)
 Looking north across the nave. (the tomb belongs to a member of the Neville family)

Until the late 1800's there wouldn't have been any seats in the Nave. The carved pillars have stood for almost 900 years and are 6.6 metres round and 6.6 metres high. They support the ceiling.

There is a long narrow slab of black marble set into the floor and this marks the point behind which women had to remain, a restriction that continued until the mid-sixteenth century.

From about 1093 to 1539 the church was highly decorated and the windows filled with stained glass. but during the Reformation the walls were whitewashed and all the windows were broken.  What you see in the windows now is mostly Victorian.

 The Quire, where services are held every day.

Whilst we were visiting the choir were practising for Evensong, and the accoustics and the beautiful voices actually made me cry. (I really am quite soft, you know!)
 The highly decorated organ pipes which were also playing during our visit.
 The high altar, and behind it the Neville screen.
 The Shrine of St Cuthbert.
 The Daily Bread window.

This window is by the main north door, and was designed by Mark Angus in 1984, and paid for by the staff of Marks and Spencers, to mark the firm's centenary. It illustrates the Last Supper.
 The Galilee Chapel.
The Venerable Bede's tomb (right, and in between the candles)

Bede was born in 673, a saxon, who joined a monastery at Jarrow where he spent all his life. He was a scholar, historian, theologian, poet, scientist, biographer and wrote extensively about the Bible. He died in 735.

And finally a look at the wonderful architecture of the roof of the central tower.