Monday, 26 November 2012

Coventry Evening Telegraph review of Through Our Hands.

 Just a small update: the face, 2nd round of paint, beginning to put in features and work on flesh tones a bit more.

Below: because I was asked, here are closeup details of the straightened out seam at the base of the shed....filling in space with paint.

Link to site:;+Art.-a0309660052


UNWRAP yourself a Christmas treat with a visit to a colourful Warwickshire exhibition.
Through Our Hands at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum brings together the works of 10 top international quilt artists.
They are keen to show how their work has moved on from the purely practical to being an art form.
British artist Annabel Rainbow's work is striking in its visual images and the intricate work that has gone into it. Hello Dear, What Did You Do Today? features a naked woman working on a quilt, tea and chocolate biscuits at the ready - and a shelf of feminist and women's interest book titles behind her.
Tracey Emin may have shown quilting can be feminist, but these are equally strong. Two more works by Annabel Rainbow also feature naked women, one fleeing her life, chains and abandoned items flying off, as she runs across the surface of the world with passages by Auden and Emile stitched onto them.
Alicia Merrett is interested in maps and Elizabethan City looks like a fantastically-coloured aerial view, with a river meandering through, and lots of tiny plots of close-up properties surrounded by countryside.
Welsh quilter Bethan Ash has contributed two pieces, Any Colour You Like, a wonderful swirl of different colours which is graffiti-like in places, and I Want to Stitch, a political piece with her intentions stitched onto a background.
Hungarian Eszter Bornemisza has several pieces of work on show including Red Mud, which is gloriously coloured, and Primitive Findings, a box-type work showing different fabrics.
American artist Elizabeth Barton's Petergate incorporates layers of cloth she's painted or dyed and looks like a stained glass window and Australia's Dijanne Cevaal shows Travellers' Blanket, an attractive explosion of colour.
The intricacy of design and attention to detail is amazing in these works, and surely meets their aim of having quilting accepted as art.
BREAKING THE MOULD: A feminist work by Annabel Rainbow, above, and, below, Eszter Bornemisza'a Primitive Findings

Friday, 23 November 2012

More painting done on Life 5

A bit more progress.  I've been working on the zen garden which will have to be knocked back a bit, but not until I've decided on the tones for the foreground.

On the left is the last stage of the garden shed, and on the right is yesterdays efforts.  The bottom line of the shed has been straightened and I've added darks (using pthalo turquoise)  I was going to pile gravel against the shed, hence the uneven edge, but decided it was better without. The gravel is in but I think I'll go for a bit more patterning and shape. That will be one of the last things to do.

Friday, 9 November 2012

As well as painting.....

...I've been making a little box for a special treasure!

The inside of the box is lined with fabric which has been printed with the newspaper for the day my granddaughter was born.  I had to pick through the paper to find bits that were suitable - so we have fashion, the stock market, grandad's crossword (completed of course) and foreign news, as well as a quote and birthdays of famous people born on the same day.

If you had a bigger project, or wanted the printing done easily and professionally you could try here.
I had a bit of bubblejet liquid left from years ago and decided to use it up in the hope that it would make the print last longer. Not sure if it has that effect or not, but it didn't cost me anything and only took a little time.

You soak prepared fabric in the fluid, for about 10 minutes, then squeeze out and dry.  Iron the fabric to freezer paper and cut to size for your printer....and print. You then need to wash, dry and iron.   The newsprint came out best when I upped the contrast to high. It's readable and I hope may amuse at some point. It's going to house a special present of course.

The outside of the box will probably be decorated with flowers.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A little of the process for you!

I'm asked lots about what paints I use and how I paint.  Here's some photos of the beginnings of the process for you.  I try lots of different things - this time it's underpainting with green - and I like to experiment so it's not always the same for each painting.

Getting everything ready and choosing the paint colours.  I have a separate drawer for yellow, reds, greens etc - it helps no end.
 The commercially available flesh tints are pretty grotty on the whole and need stuff added to them.  In this case, green, yellow ochre, and titanium white.
 I keep adding those colours until I get a flesh colour which is ok at least for the underpainting.  At this stage whatever you put on, looks a bit like pink sausage (to use Laura Kemshall's phrase which is very succinct).  Getting a good flesh colour is very hard indeed.
 An underpainting of green. I thought it would tie up well with the topiary in the centre bit.

Below, adding the flesh tones all over, and right, adding some highlights to show the lighter areas, and yellow ochre for the darker. Tip: always go over the lines as you don't want harsh edges and that includes the hairline.

It's now a question of building onto it all.  I may decide to leave painting the figure at this stage and move onto the surroundings just so that I can maintain a colour and tone balance throughout the whole.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Ready to paint at last!

I remember saying on this blog in the dizzy mists of time, that Life 5 should be finished by the end of October. Silly me.  Life, if you'll pardon the pun, has got in the way, and there's a vast amount of stitching on this one.

However, I finished all the stitching today and will begin painting tomorrow with a bit of luck - too dark to start today. That's the trouble with winter in the UK, it gets dark from about 3.30-4.00pm and I do like natural light to paint by.

Footnote: A couple of weeks ago I had an anonymous comment about Life 4 - Hello Dear, What Did You Do Today? telling me that really I should quote my sources when giving statistics, name the books etc. The writer had obviously completely missed the point! Perhaps he/she thought I was writing an academic essay of some kind, rather than making a piece of art.  So, just in case, (!) all these quilts are in a series of 10/12 and are called "Life Stories" and have detailed text on them. The text is not an explanation, it's a story about the person depicted. You don't have to read the text to understand the picture, it just adds another layer and is something the viewer can investigate if they wish. I've done a great deal of research on them before stitching, but they're not intended as educational in any way.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Art Quilts - a view

by Warwick University - Helen Cobby review of Through Our Hands.

The relationship between art and crafts is constantly debated and revised
within the creative world. Leamington’s latest art exhibition at the Pump Rooms
engages with this by presenting a great variety of quilts in terms of shape,
size, subject matter, medium and stitching techniques in order to focus on
the aesthetic, but also the political, nature of quilting and craftsmanship. This
directs the viewer to approach the quilts as pieces of art, rather than functional
items coming from an archaic crafting history. However, the craftsmanship and
obvious crafting skill that goes into making one of these beautiful quilts is not
ignored, as the exhibition includes a film on how quilts and patchwork pieces are
made alongside displays of quilting fabric samples that visitors are encouraged
to touch.

This exhibition, entitled Through Our Hands, includes work from ten top
international quilt artists and teachers, which makes for a vibrant collection of
techniques and modern subjects, and undermines traditional prejudices about
quilting being a fussy, old fashioned, and predominantly functional craft. Though
I feel they still play around with the ‘woman question’ attached to the creation
and use of crafts – for a start, all the artists are female, and their work depicts
mostly domestic or ‘familiar’ scenes. This however is not a criticism, because
although the exhibition can be seen to (re)define quilting as a form of female
expression, this focus on the domestic and the feminine ultimately serves to
present everyday details as beautiful, something poets and artists alike have
been doing for centuries. In addition, these familiar scenes are often pushed into
an almost supernatural sphere, and ‘unpicked’ so as to focus on the potential of
quilting for conveying, and experimenting with, shape, colour, form and feeling.
Through Our Hands is definitely a successful stand for modernising quilting as an
artistic form and process.

You don’t have to be a quilting expert to be able to appreciate the variety of
different practices this exhibition brings together. This is partly due to the way
the exhibition has been curated and hung, as quilts made up of contrasting
techniques are juxtaposed within the same hanging space. So an exciting mixture
of hand painted quilting, hand appliqué, embellishment, embroidery, and
machine or free motion continuous stitching is displayed, giving a great feast for
the eyes and senses.

One piece by quilting artist Bethan Ash called I Want To Stitch, 144 x 80cm, is
made up of appliqué and text, which I feel is reminiscent of Tracey Emin’s wall
hangings – but is a lot neater. With the use of text, Ash’s quilt literally explores
what quilting means in a colourful collection of enjambed lines, which state ideas
about quilts being a “reflection of our past”, a source of warmth and comfort,
defined by shape and colour, and able to impart political ideas and values. This
implication of the fluidity of quilts in terms of their function, form and meaning
is mirrored in the way each quilt is hung because due to the intense stitching
on each piece, the work hangs away from the walls defying any fixed frame and
instead suggesting movement and freedom within the stitching lines.
Text is also a feature in Eszter Bornemisza’s pieces that greet the visitor at
the beginning of the exhibition. Her work experiments with ideas of evolution
within cities and urban life, which she communicates through using rusty brown
colours and found materials such as recycled paper and reprinted newspapers.
Especially in the piece, City in the Aire’, 300 x 100cm, Bornedmisza incorporates
birds eye view maps, calligraphy and newspaper text to layer up different
methods of communication constructive of city life.

Text is also a fundamental theme in Annabel Rainbow’s three quilts (each
roughly 150 x 110cm), through which she explores what it means to be a modern
woman pulled in different directions by pressures of motherhood, domesticity
and academic success. Her triptych sequence is broken into three poignant
but satiric titles, Be the Change You Want, Switching Off, and “Hello Dear. What
Did You Do Today?”, which maps the roles available to the modern woman.
The feelings that the artist believes these options evoke within a woman are
then ‘blistered’ and ingrained onto the skin of the female figures central within
each panel’s composition. This dramatic and thought provoking reaction to some
of the pressures women face is heightened by the highly detailed domesticity
depicted within each scene and the thick dark frames that simultaneously
close off and link each section of the triptych together. Due to this, the feeling
of claustrophobia and containment is lucidly conveyed beneath what initially
appears to be a comfortable domestic interior.

After looking at Rainbow’s work, the quilt Traveller’s Blanket with Circles, 140
x 85cm, by Dijanne Cevall, appears particularly uplifting. It is one of the most
abstract quilts on display, and celebrates pattern and embroidery techniques
through a collection of cheerful and vibrant ‘microorganisms’. This definitely
captures the energy and movement of travel and memory from which it is

This exhibition is on until 13 January, which hopefully means no one will miss
out on seeing it. Although it is small, I am sure I will be going back several
times to savour the diversity, skill and passion that this exhibition exudes. It is
a completely refreshing take on quilting that provides a creative platform for
exploring this art form and its relationship with craft and modern life.