Sunday, 30 October 2011

A day in Whitby

Whitby has long been a family favourite. It's a small fishing port and seaside resort in Yorkshire.  Captain James Cook, set sail from Whitby in the Bark Endeavour, on a voyage which charted the east coast of Australia and New Zealand.  (I shall be taking you on a voyage on a 40% scale copy of the Bark Endeavour at the end of the posting, which will be exciting won't it?! Snort.)

You can read about him on the website for the Whitby Museum here - it's located in the very house he grew up in, on the harbour front.

Whitby's skyline is also famously known for the ruins of St Hilda's Abbey which is on top of the East Cliffs. It attracts hundreds of Goths for the twice yearly Whitby Goth Weekend, and is the largest gathering of Goths in the world!

Why do Goths come to Whitby? Because of the churchyard of the parish church of St. Mary, which gave Bram Stoker the inspiration to write his book, Dracula.

From the Abbey on top of the cliff you walk through the graveyard of St Mary's (above) and down the famous 199 steps to the small town.

It's a pretty place full of Whitby Jet shops and the usual seaside paraphernalia. Whitby Jet is the fossilized remains of a tree from the Jurassic period and is only found along a seven and a half mile stretch of the North Yorkshire coastline centered around Whitby.

There are lots of little alleyways to explore.

And lots of seaside-y and fishing things to look at, like these lobster pots on the quay.

The beach is beautiful but usually quite quiet. There's a fabulous pier to walk down, and you can catch boats here to take you out fishing or for short scenic trips.

One for the textile artists amongst you. What a glorious confusion of texture and colour, washed up on the beach.

 This is the quayside with the replica Bark Endeavour. It's a 40% size scale model, but I think you can imagine the real one must have been very tiny... especially when you consider how many crew members there were, and what it would have been like to be on board her for months on end.
 The rigging on the front end.
 Tied up on the quay. 

Out at sea;  it took me ages to get the mouth of the cannon lined up with the Abbey on top of the cliff!

And finally so you can experience it for yourself, a short video I took on board. Please forgive the background noise in some was a very windy day!  (Oh, and remember, real pirates don't have to worry about chucking rubbish overboard.)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Oriental piece 1 - making the background

 I've made a start on the first piece which is going to be based on a Japanese lacquered box at Snowshill Manor  I visited there a while ago and there's some images on the link of the Samurai warriors and other bits and pieces.

The background fabric is going to be dark, so I set about making it yesterday.

First: gathering useful bits!
 This is magic sponge which I first came across here.  (I think they still sell it on their website if you can't find it locally.)

You simply cut your shape in the dry foam which looks like card, and then dip it into water, and giggle when it swells into a sponge!  You can have lots of fun amusing children with this.
 I have my shape cut out of foam and am ready to stamp onto some plain white cloth.

I mix my paints (fabric paint in this case-the piece was too small to warrant rummaging around in the garage for my dyeing stuff!) onto disposable palette papers. This is because I hate washing up painty things so it saves me some bother. When you've finished you simply tear off the top sheet and put it into the bin.  (buy the ones for acrylic paints as they can stand the water - the ones in the picture are for oils and they tend to buckle)
 Beginning to stamp. I've used a ruler because I feel a grid needs to be fairly accurate or it doesn't look so good.
 The stamping is finished.  I've used a mixture of black, navy, and maroon with a hint of turquoise, which will be the main colour of the finished piece.
 After the fabric paint was fixed with an iron, I then decided to cover the squares with soya wax. (I have seen this sold as soy wax and soya wax and I'm not quite sure if they have the same uses so you might like to check first)
 When the wax was dry, I crumpled it to give cracks in the surface. 
 I then painted the whole cloth with a mixture of the black and blue. The dark paint seeps into the cracks in the wax and adds a bit of random colour to the squares.
 I needed to fix the fabric paint before washing, or I might have lost the colour, so I ironed the cloth before washing the soya wax out.

The ironing board has several sheets of newspaper on it to absorb the melting wax, and I used baking parchment on top to protect the iron.

The cloth was then washed at about 60 degrees to get rid of the wax, and the result is below.

Although I love the effect of this, it's not nearly dark enough for my plan, so I will revert to dyes, and will overdye with black, or I will keep it as a backing, and start the front again.

It's fun to play and see what happens though!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Update and a bit of thinking.

Quiet blog but busy me.

Progress on Life 2 (Be The Change You Want), continues. I've just started painting after quite a heavy few hours of stitching.  The quilt is draped over my easel which is why it looks a little distorted!

The words on the body are from an extract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Emile), and the lady is breaking free from the chains that bind her and is stepping out, over the world taking some things with her and leaving some behind.  They have symbolic meaning for me and other women I think. It's a very large piece, so you won't be able to see the detail until it's finished and I've taken better photos.

"Men and women are made for each other, but their mutual dependence is not equal. We could survive without them better than they could without us. They are dependent on our feelings, on the price we put on their merits, on the value we set on their attractions and on their virtues. Thus womens entire education should be planned in relation to men.  To please men, to be useful to them, to win their love and respect, to raise them as children, to care for them as adults, counsel and console them, make their lives sweet and pleasant."   This was forward thinking apparently in 1762!!

I've also done preparatory drawings etc for Life 3 (Switching Off)
I have also been looking at Haiku - a form of poetry that loses a bit in the translation sometimes! eg

In my old home
which I forsook, the cherries
are in bloom.

·  A giant firefly:
that way, this way, that way, this -
and it passes by.

But still, they evoke an emotional response in me, which is a starting point for working on the 3 oriental pieces I'm thinking about for the Redditch Needle Museum exhibition. That together with Chinese wallpaper and I think we have a way forward!  I'm also trying to draw Japanese ladies in a very distorted way and having fun.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Hardwick Hall - Lousy crumble, lots of exciting beds, tapestries, and furniture.

Hardwick Hall is the home of Bess of Hardwick.  It was built in the 1590's by Bess and is home to some of the finest tapestries in Europe from Elizabethan England. Visitor details here.

I'm not sure who caught who on a bad day, but not my favourite place.

Now before I share photos and history with you, a word of caution. Lots of people enjoy a nice lunch when they go out for a day trip, but you won't find one at Hardwick. The restaurant is sadly lacking; the loos are cramped and scruffy - but clean - and there's not enough of them.  After you've queued for a seat in the cramped dining hall (there aren't nearly enough places) food orders are taken by some lovely young waiters, but you have to sit at trestle benches, elbow to elbow with a group of people haven't chosen to dine with, you have to wait for ages for your order to arrive (40 minutes in my case) - the kitchen simply can't cope. I only ordered fruit crumble and it was inedible. Here it is for you to make your own mind up. The custard was made with water and the crumble wasn't crumbly; I suspect someone had torn up soggy, left over pastry. It was a hard yet glutenous mass and the fruit wasn't sweetened. Yuck.  I've never left a crumble before. My heart bled. It wasn't even a particularly busy day.

I haven't finished moaning, but onwards to the pretty bits.

The outside 
Built by Bess of Hardwick in the 1590s, and unaltered since. It has huge windows in the stone walls that make it look like there's more glass than wall.  It has six towers which make a dramatic skyline. 

Please note the number of school children in the photo. Great that they're there learning stuff, but you can imagine what it's like to visit a house, to try and appreciate the atmosphere, and concentrate on what you're seeing, with masses of children running around and having lessons in fenced off areas of the rooms, making them no-go areas and filling the space with loud voices, at the same time as having to listen to the teachers trying to keep order and pass on information.  Ok, moaning done for now.

Hardwick is a conspicuous statement of the wealth and power of Bess Of Hardwick, who was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth 1st. It was one of the first English houses where the Great Hall was through the centre of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance.

 Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Some of the needlework on display in the house incorporates Bess's monogram "ES", and may have been worked on by Bess herself.

 Up the stairs....

 ...along the corridor....
 .....through the very crooked doorway......

And into the most beautifully decorated, huge room.  Just look at all that needlework on the walls, chairs, and canopy. The Great Chamber with a plaster frieze of hunting scenes

 ...looking through a doorway into another room...
(Same room), ....looking towards the fireplace.
And into the long gallery.

Hardwick Hall has one of the largest long galleries in any English house. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury, leading to the saying, "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall"

Bess of Hardwick, rose from humble origins to become on of the most powerful people in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. She married four times, each time gaining more wealth and her fourth husband was the Earl of Shrewsbury, one of the richest and most powerful of the English nobles of the time.

For many years the Shrewsburys were responsible for the guardianship of that unhappy Queen Mary Queen of Scots. The dynasty created by Bess included many powerful descendants including the Dukes of Devonshire, Newcastle, Portland and Kingston.

 The story is that Bess had a furious dispute with her husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and in 1584 had to leave their home at Chatsworth. She came to the Old Hall at Hardwick and largely rebuilt it as a place for herself to live. However, when the Earl died in 1590 her finances became much more secure and she immediately began the construction of the 'New' Hall. The Old Hall was abandoned and gradually became a ruin.
 This canopy and chairs was mid way along the Long Gallery.

 Queen Elizabeth 1st
 Some of the furniture.

 And here we are back with some of my favourite things;  the beds and bed headings.

 The dining room.
 A modern sitting room.

 Something we don't get to see very often....the reverse of some embroidery.
 These fantastic boxes filled this small room completely. It's storage for all the paperwork; deeds and legal documents relating to the land and property of Bess.