Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Life 6 progress - pots, wallpaper and oranges

Left: the applique has been put onto the pots, and below, some stitching has been added.  The quilt is in place. I have to do some minor adjustments to straighten things, but this bit is ready for painting.
On the left is an initial design for some Rainbow Chinoisserie wallpaper.  I asked the folk who read my FB page, what made them content. (The quilt is about contentment) It was a mixture of being with the folk one loves, food, drink, nature, sunshine, and peace and quiet. If you look carefully you can see a cupcake, a glass of wine, an orange, two hearts, grapes, birds, butterflies, and 3 round things which are supposed to be Maltesers.

The poem I'm using for this quilt is about a HUGE orange and I did go in search of something large.  I found these two; the best my greengrocer could do.  It's years since I've peeled an orange.  That struck me as odd.  I eat satsumas these days, but somehow don't think of them as oranges.  There is a connection between China and satsumas, (being satsuma ware!), but I'll leave that one for now.  I've enough on my plate as you can clearly see!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Progress on Still Life (with orange)

Making the table and draping the cloth over it.

Below left: Painting some cloth to make a Chinese vase, and right putting in some applique shapes.

Pinning the vase into place prior to stitching and painting.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Cloth finished.

The cloth is now finished and pinned into place.  I've been taking photos to see how the vases and oranges might look.

I saw a painting once of blue jars in a line - can't remember the artist - but I liked it because it was an unusual arrangement.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


I've finished the stitching of the words, and have everything more or less ready to go now. 

I've been thinking what I'd like to do in the background.  I was going to leave it blank as I'm getting to be quite a fan of empty spaces, but have decided to give myself a bit of a challenge.

This is for the Orientation exhibition, so I'm going to put in some chinoiserie wallpaper.  I have one or two photos of old Chinese wallpaper taken at various visits to National Trust properties, and I also have this......

........which is on my bedroom wall!  Very handy.  It's gold on white which I like as it won't compete with the rest of the picture, but I might add colour to it - I'll have to see what it looks like when I get that far.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The words for Life 6 - Still Life.

 This is the body stitched onto the cloth for Life 6 - Still Life.

It's a happy quilt about contentment.

The model will have an enigmatic smile and closed eyes, and be seated at a table with some pots and oranges, and half an orange on a plate.

And you know me, there's a reason for everything! Why half an orange? It's significant in China (explanation on the last posting) being a sign of good fortune and happiness.

And it's to do with the poem that's being stitched onto the body.

Apologies for the funny colour of the photo but my camera battery went flat on me this morning and there wasn't quite enough power to make the photo its proper white colour. The stitching is white on white cloth.

The words are from a poem called The Orange, and it's by Wendy Cope. (below)

I've made a start on the piecing for the cloth she's leaning on, so it's all coming together well.
The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange-
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled and shared it with Robert and Dave -
They got quarters and I had a half.

And the orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Life 5 - "Shall I Be Mother?" finished. Photos and story.

I've pinned Life 5 - Shall I be Mother? to the wall so you can see the finished image. The quilt itself isn't quite finished as it has a brown fabric border/frame to go on so that it matches the others.  There's some closeup photos underneath the details of the story.

This is the story - remember it's not real!!

Perhaps I should explain to non-Brits! The saying "Shall I be mother?" is often said when one takes charge of the teapot at gatherings, and helps everyone else to a cup of tea. So there is a double meaning on this quilt  and it's all caught up with the tea ceremony, which is why it will be shown as part of the Orientation exhibition at Wheedon in March.

So, there's this young woman who needs to work for a living as a geisha. She's not a prostitute but a respected member of a society which values things differently. She makes her living from singing and dancing and entertaining including officiating at tea ceremonies. Illegally, her virginity has been bought and she is with child. She's doesn't know what to do. Her instincts as a prospective mother have to be weighed against her lifestyle and the years of training she's undertaken. Her life as a geisha would not be possible and she has to live somehow. She has an answer of course, but it's not simple. She doesn't know what to do. There's a rational argument, an instinctive human response, and a spiritual one as well.

Here's the words that are stitched onto the body
Shall I be mother?  I don’t know, I really don’t know. In 2001 my mizuage was illegally sold for 20,000 and means I am now officially Geisha. For me the tea ceremony is a transformative practice and I follow the belief of wabi sabi and I can now be a host and earn my living. I do not believe in an afterlife. When I die, I disappear. But I am with child and my mortality will become my immortality.

No one should have the right to say what happens to my body, because I don’t belong to anyone else.  I was given the gift of life when I was born but I find I am not free. No one is. Governments and religions all dictate to us. They have given themselves the right to command what happens to our bodies and say when one person becomes two, and that one person will suffer because of the other.  What is soul? Consciousness is soul. Potential isn’t soul. I had the potential to pass exams but didn’t. A potential person isn’t a person. Thomas Aquinas said that boys had soul 40 days gestation and girls at 90 days, and the Catholic Church says soul exists from conception. How can that be?  I can't believe in your God, and wonder how can you quantify the spiritual and justify your actions by promising an afterlife, but, I am human, I am woman, and........

At 1 month 0.5cms
Heart pumping since 18th day. The beginnings of eyes, spinal cord and nerves, lungs, stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys.

At 2 months 2.5 to 3.5 cms
Arms and legs become distinct and tiny fingers and toes appear. All internal organs of an adult, at various stages of development, are present. The first bone cells begin to be formed. Brain waves can be detected from about the sixth week.

At 3 months. 6-8 cms
Development continues. The mother may feel the foetus kicking as it flexes its muscles. The heartbeat can be detected. The foetus now looks clearly like a human baby and can suck its thumb.

At 4 months 12-18 cms
The head has distinct human features and may have hair. The skin is pink, and the bones are closing to form joints. A baby can now be a girl or a boy.

At 5 months 25-30cms
Developing rapidly and very active

At 6 months 28-34cms.
Eyes may now open. All systems are formed and are just growing in size

At 7-9months 36-56cms
Grows in size and fat is deposited to help survival at birth. Grows fingernails.

Closeups of Life 5 - "Shall I Be Mother?"

Monday, 7 January 2013

Life 6 - Still Life

I will post about Life 5 which is now finished, soon.  In the meantime if you'd like a sneaky peak have a look here where you can see the images and read the story behind the piece.

I have begun Life 6

I mentioned to my DD that I was thinking of putting some lemons into Life 6, and she said "Had you considered the orange at all?" (for it is how we speak in my family!)  "Tis a well known good luck symbol in the Orient."

I thought orange would look just as good as lemon with all the blue and white, so I've looked into it.

This has led to a google search of course, and I found the following interesting info about fruit here  As you see, there's all sorts of thoughts and traditions to fruit!    BUT no mention of lemons. Rats, oranges it is then :))

Fruits are temple offerings. 

The Chinese love fruits, they like them big and beautiful, and they prefer fresh fruits, though sugared ones are common at this time of year. Fresh fruit at the New Year symbolizes life and a new beginning. Sugared ones are a wish for a sweet year. Traditionally, the pomelo, mandarins or what we call the tangerine or clementine, as well as limes, bananas, pineapple, and water or winter melon are seen as temple offerings. And speaking of traditions, during the harvest festival, the Lunar New Year, and other special occasions, fruits are common gifts, as well as common offerings. 

The orange is a prayer or wish for good fortune. That is why it is probably the most common food offering. As a harbinger of wishes for good luck, they are often eaten on the second day of the New Year. Why not the first, because once an Emperor distributed oranges to his officials on the second day of the New Year. Thus you are also wishing for officialdom if you eat them on this day.

The mandarin and other fruits in the citrus family have other interesting roles. For instance, after her wedding, the bride is given two of these fruits by her new in-laws. She is to peel them the evening of the nuptials and share them with her husband. These two fruits are symbolizing a family wish that the bride and groom share a happy and full life together. Also, the name of the mandarin in Cantonese also means gold, clearly a dual wish here adding hopes for a life loaded with prosperity. 

I was told that in the north of China two types of dried fruits are placed under the marriage bed, both wishing for many offspring. These are dried lychees and dried longans. The reason for these particular items, the words for them also mean "to have children quickly." 

Melons and the pomelo are symbolic of family unity, they hold out the wish that the family will, like the moon, stay round, large, whole, and also united. Families love to share them and many other fruits. That may be why they buy large fruits and share them together. 

Pomegranates have special family meaning, too. They symbolizes fertility; this fruit is full of seeds. A picture is often a wedding gift, a special picture with one of these fruits shown half-opened. The meaning is a hundred seeds, or more completely, a hundred sons. The word for seed is zi, it is also the word for sons. 

The pomegranate is one fruit not used for sacrifice. The reason, it is considered to be too seductive. If you see a pomegranate on an old sash or cap of office in an ancient painting, the meaning has nothing to do with the seeds of this fruit, rather, it is saying or maybe praying to keep the title or rank from generation to generation in the same family. As in the two meanings for zi, what we call a homonym, only in this case it the word shi which also means generation. 

Banana, found on some offering altars are there for other reasons. This fruit's leaves are one of the fourteen precious items to scholars. So on the offering table or altar, you are finding a wish for education, brilliance in work or school, or a related thought. 

Apples have meaning, too. They symbolize peace. The word for apple in Chinese is ping, the homonym of ping is peace. Should you wonder what a homonym is, think of the word bear, the big four-legged animal and then think bear as in to bear fruit. Now the blossom of the apple is different; it stands for beauty. If you see one in a picture along with magnolias, the meaning is a hope that your house be honored and rich (with beauty).

Apricots are symbolic, too, they can stand for or mean a beautiful woman. But beauty had best not be to give your husband a red one. If you did, it would tell him that his wife is having an affair with a lover. 

The loquat in Chinese is called pipa, which is the name of a Chinese musical instrument. Now this fruit ripens in early spring. So young boys out with less than honorable women were said to be running with loquat blossoms. Peaches portend longevity, and one almost always sees them in the hand of a man. That could be because the peach blossom advises of a somewhat loose lady. One rarely sees these two fruits together. though in real life less han honorable women could be out with young boys. 

Pears symbolize something else. For example, lovers should never share a pear because the word for pear is identical to the word for separation. Many fruits are shared, but never is the pear divided with a husband, a lover, or a friend. And, whatever you do, don't give pears as a gift, especially on the 15th day of the 7th month; if you did, you would be wishing a separation from or to someone loved.
Symbols in fruit and other foods are fascinating. Allow me to end with a tripartite Chinese image wishing you (with a peach, a pomegranate, and a finger-lemon) a long life, many sons, and every happiness.

Making a start
Just in case you think this is a quilt, look at the pencil, and you'll see it's a photocopy! I bought this quilt on ebay just for the life quilts. It was very reasonably priced at £30 - I certainly couldn't have made it for that.

 I'm using the photocopy as a template.  If you've watched DMTV, you may have seen this explained already when I spoke to Linda about Life 5, a little while ago.

The back of the photocopy is marked with arrows so I always know which is "up" which helps with the piecing.  I keep meaning to make myself a stamp for this to save time!  It's English piecing over papers of course.  This time it doesn't have to be fitted around a body, but if it did and I needed an exact size, I'd need to slice a little off each shape before covering it with fabric.  Fabric makes the shapes larger which over something this size could make an inch difference by the time I'd got to the other side.

I had a great time at the Gallery this morning explaining to a group of student from Coventry, all about the quilts and their construction.  It's the last week of Through Our Hands in Leamington which is sad, but we are moving it onto foq in August, and thereafter, well, just follow the links on my sidebar!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Life 5 - last showing of progress

Although not finished, this is the last update before Life 5 will be seen again!!  I have the face to do and shadows on the trees - just little fiddly bits and the frame and we're done. The paint takes a couple of days to dry and "settle", so it's no good doing any more until then. So it's on with the next one.

I've begun Life 6 already with some preliminary sketches you saw on the last posting.  Here's a pen and ink sketch with some bottles. I think the perfume bottle on the right and possibly the kettle (which is bright blue) might make it into Life 6 but I'm not sure yet.

It's called Still Life so will include the usual still life subjects of bottles and jars and maybe a lemon or two, and the model is on a quilt again. She's looking blissful and content, and the words will be about life and finding a few minutes in the day to close your eyes and relax and reflect.