Sunday, 28 July 2013

Why are you crying?

Life  9 is coming with me to Festival of Quilts from 8 - 11th August.  It will be in an unfinished state and form part of a studio tableau.  One of the panels will be taken directly from my Altered Book on Angst. Followers of the blog and Facebook allowed me to put labels in the book about what upset them.

I will be using the same idea on cloth.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Photos of Orientation, at Minerva

There was a Meet The Artist session at Minerva Arts Centre on Sunday. SixandFriends who are currently showing their Orientation Exhibition were there to chat to visitors, and Hilary Beattie gave a demonstration which seemed to go down very well.

Laura snapped this photo of me in front of, Life 5  - Shall I Be Mother, and Life 6 - Still Life (with Orange)

Thanks to everyone at Minerva who looked after us so well. There are some more photos, including some of the wonderful work on show, on the sixandfriends blog (link above) and on Steph's blog here

Tuesday, 16 July 2013



Laura Kemshall and I have 2 complimentary tickets to give away!! To get one, simply add a comment to the posting on our facebook page, and we will draw the lucky winners at random on 28th July 2013 (this will give time for the tickets to be sent to you.) Good Luck!

I haven't really mentioned Through Our Hands much on this blog - not sure why!!

In case you don't know about it, it's a website for art quilters and museum/art gallery curators, and here's some blurb about why we exist.

About Through our Hands


The intention for the Through Our Hands series of exhibitions is to champion modern, artistic quilt making; to demonstrate what a thriving art form it is; to increase the awareness of art quilts and their concerns, and display how these are executed through a wonderful showcase of both quality of workmanship and design.

The selected exhibitors and participants in the Through our Hands exhibitions and on this website are amongst the foremost international artists. Many travel the world teaching methods of construction and design principles. They have written books, exhibited widely both at home and abroad, and are generally considered to be at the pinnacle of their field.
 “When the flush of a new-born sun fell on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Til the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty. But is it Art?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Jane Austen's house at Chawton - 2nd posting - long!

Continuing on from the last posting, here are some more photos of the house at Chawton.

I'd like to quote, where possible, from "My Aunt Jane Austen. A Memoir by Caroline Austen" (daughter of James, Jane's brother, born in 1805)   Quotes have grey background.

In the time of my childhood, it was a cheerful house; my uncles one or another, frequently coming for a few days; and they were all pleasant in their own family. I have thought since, after having seen more of other households, wonderfully, as the family talk had much of spirit and vivacity, and it was never troubled by disagreements as it was not their habit to argue with each other. There always was perfect harmony amongst the brothers and sisters, and over my Grandmother's door might have been inscribed the text, "Behold how good and joyful a thing is is, brethren, to dwell together in unity"

Jane's donkey carriage
The first thing you see on your tour of the house are the outbuildings behind the house.  In one of these is housed the restored donkey cart Jane used for shopping and especiallywhen she became ill towards the end of her life.

I believe Aunt Jane's health began to fail some time before we knew she was really ill - but she bacame avowedly less equal to exercise.  In a letter to me she says:

" I have taken one ride on the donkey and I like it very much, and you must try to get me quiet mild days that I may be able to go out pretty constantly - a great deal of wind does not suit me, as I have still a tendency to rheumatism.  In short, I am but a poor Honey at present - I will be better when you can come and see us"

A donkey carriage had been set up for my Grandmother's accommodation (Jane's mother) - but I think she seldom used it, and Aunt Jane found it a help to herself in getting to Alton - where, for a time, Capt. Austen had a house.

Jane was a desperate walker but her mother's Donkey Carriage would have been used for shopping trips and other slightly longer journeys.  Unlike a coach the carriage offered no protection again bad weather.

"Mary Jane and I have been wet through once already today, we set off in the Dokey Carriage for Farringdon...but were obliged to turn back before we got there, but not soon enough to avoid a pelter all the way home" Letter to James Edward 9th July 1816

At the end of her life Jane made more frequent use of the Donkey Carriage, though in order to be more independent and less "troublesome" by not always using the carriage, Jane took to riding one of their donkeys.

I have a scheme however for accomplishing more, as the weather grows more springlike. I mean to take up riding the donkey...I shall be able to go about wiht Cassandra in her walks to Alton and Wyards Letter to Fanny Knight 13th March 1817

The Sofa

In my later visits to Chawton Cottage, I remember Aunt Jane used often to lie down after dinner - My Grandmother herself was frequently on the sofa, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the evening, at no fixed period of the day. She had not bad health for her age and she worked often for hours in the garden, and naturally wanted rest afterwards. There was only one sofa in the room - and Aunt Jane laid upon 3 chairs which she arranged for herself - I think she had a pillow, but it never looked comfortable. She called it her sofa, and even when the other was unoccupied, she never took it. It seemed understood that she preferred the chairs.     I wondered and wondered - for the real sofa was frequently vacant, and still she laid in this comfortless manner. I often asked her how she could like the chairs best - and I suppose I worried her into telling me the reason of her choice - which was, that if she ever used the sofa, Grandmama would be leaving it for her, and would not lie down, as she did now, whenever she felt inclined.

Left is the kitchen area. The families meals would have been prepared here, but not breakfast! (See dining parlour, below)

At 9 oclock she made breakfast - that was her part of the household work. The tea and sugar stores were under her charge and the wine. Aunt Cassandra did all the rest - for my Grandmother had suffered herself to be superseded by her daughters before I can remember.

The Drawing Room

You walk into this room from a very small hallway at the side of the house. It's the largest room, and is where the 3 ladies would have sat and entertained, sewed, painted, etc.

I don't believe Aunt Jane observed any particular method in parcelling out er day but I think she generally sat in the drawing room till luncheon: when visitors were there, chiefly at work. She was fond of work and she was a great adept at overcast and satin stitch - the peculiar delight of that day. General handiness and neatness were amongst her characteristics.

There is a piano in the corner of this room - an 1810 Clementi square piano - not the actual one Jane practised on, but a similar one of the period. You can play the piano if you wish, and I was lucky enough to hear it - it sounds rather lovely tinkling away as you walk around the room.

Aunt Jane began her day with music, for which I conclude she had a natural taste; as she thus kept it up-though she had no one to teach; was never induced (as I have heard) to play in company: and none of her family cared much for it.  I suppose, that she might not trouble them, she chose her practising time before breakfast when she could have the room to herself.  She practised regularly every morning. She played very pretty tunes I thought, and I liked to stand by her and listen to them, but the music, (for I knew the books well in after years) would now be though disgracefully easy. Much that she played from was manuscript, copied out by herself - and so neatly and correctly, that it was as easy to read as print.

The Writing Table

The famous table is in the Dining Parlour. It's a 12 sided piece of walnut on a single tripod.  It's near the little-used front door . She wrote letters as well as her manuscripts here....Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion.  She also owned a writing slope which is in the British Library.

It's quite hard to write with a quill (you can have a go in the "kitchen" and it's difficult to write in the small way necessary - so as not to waste paper and be neat.

Her handwriting remains to bear testimony to it's own excellence; and every note and letter of hers, was finished off handsomely. There was an art then in folding and sealing. No adhesive envelopes made all easy. Some people's letters looked always loose and untidy, but her paper was sure to take the right folds, and her sealing wax to drop in the proper place.


My Aunt must have spent much time in writing. Her desk lived in the drawing room. I often saw her writing letters on it, and I believe she wrote much of her Novels in the same way, sitting with her family, when they were quite alone; but I never saw any manuscript of that sort in progress. She wrote very fully to her brothers when they were at sea, and she corresponded with many others of her family.

 The dining parlour, with Jane Austen's writing table on the right just by the window.

Whilst most of the meals would have been cooked in the kitchen, the breakfast would have been prepared over the small range-like cooker in the fireplace in this room.

On the table is part of the dining service belonging to Edward (brother)

"We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother and Fanny chose a dinner set. I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between lines of narrow gold, and it is to have the crest" (letter to Cassandra 16th Sept 1813)

Jane's Bedroom and some of the contents of the cases

Below is a copy of Lovers Vows. The play features in Mansfield Park and is the cause of much flirtation and dissension amongst those involved.  It was unwisely chosen as it was thought "exceedingly unfit for private representation" (by Edmund) but in the end, he took a part too. It was bought to an abrupt halt by the return of Sir Thomas Bertram (father) from the West Indies. It plays a large part in the plot and our discovery of the dispositions/traits of the characters.

Jane stayed for a while in Bath after her father's retirement and until just after his death. In 1799 she tells Cassandra athat "The play on Saturday is I hope to conclude our Gaieties here" The Bath Herald and Register for that date shows that the play showing was Blue Beard, preceded by Kotzebue's "The Birth-day". He was a German author known for the immoratlity of his plays. It was another of his plays, "Natural Son" which was published in England as Lovers' Vows (translated by a Mrs Inchbald and toned down a bit for English audiences).

As the label says - cutlery from Jane's household.

Below, the topaz crosses.  Such a cross features in Mansfield Park. It was given by Fanny's brother (at sea) and is worn at her first ball with a chain given by Edmund.

As you will see, two topaz crosses were given to Jane and Cassandra by Charles, also in the Navy.  I'm tempted to think of Edmund as rather like Charles!

"The Endymion came into Portsmouth on Sunday, and I have sent Charles a short letter by this day's post. He has received £30 for his share of the privateer and expects £10 more - but of what avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters. He has been buying Gold chains and Topaze Crosses for us; he must be well scolded....I shall write again by this post to thank and reproach him.  We shall be unbearably fine."  Letter to Cassandra 27 May 1801

If you want to compare the value of a £30 0s 0d in 1801 there are three choices. In 2012 the relative values are below.  (nb a vast difference in values depending on your comparison, and I'm not sure which I'd choose, but as Jane thinks it is a lot, and her family were reasonably well off, - at least not poor - then it would more likely be the higher values)

real price of that commodity is £1,783.00
labour value of that commodity is £28,910.00
income value of that commodity is £27,180.00

Jane's bedroom

Jane and Cassandra shared a room. It's at the back of the house and overlooks the outhouses although you can see part of the garden from the window (see posting 1 - a few days ago)

The museum explain that the house underwent alterations after Cassandra's death and they can't be sure which was Jane's bedroom.

The bed is a recreation from the details known of the beds the Revd Austen had made for his daughters in 1794. The room held 2 beds like this.

This closet is in the corner of the room and contains a chamber pot and washbowl.  The upper shelf is cutaway so you have headroom.

Warm water was bought up to the bedroom by a maid from the kitchen.

Quote from "My Aunt Jane Austen, A Memoir. by Caroline Austen." on seeing Jane in her room towards the end of Jane's life.

....Aunt Jane became too ill to have me in the house, and so I went instead to my sister, Mrs Lefroy at Wyards. The next day we walked over to Chawton to make enquiries after our Aunt. She was keeping her room but said she would see us, and we went up to her. She was in her dressing gown and was sitting quite like an invalide in an arm chair, but she got up, and kindly greeted us, and then pointing to seats which had been arranged for us by the fires, she said "There's a chair for the married lady, and a little stool for you Caroline". It is strange, but those trifling words are the last of her's that I can remembr, for I retain no recollection at all of what was said by any one in the conversation that of course ensued. .... and ...she was not eual to the exertion of talking to us and our visit to the sick room was a very short one, Aunt Cassandra soon taking us away.  I do not suppose we stayed a quarter of an hour; and I never saw Aunt Jane again.

A chair by the fire.

Left - a reproduction of Jane's bed.

Apologies for the poor photo and reflections in the glass, but I was struck at what a fine needlewoman Jane Austen must have been. This lace collar was made by her.

The Austen Family Room

It's thought that Jane's mother had this rather large room at the front of the house. Today it contains memorabilia belonging to the family, including a broach with a lock of Jane's hair.

Cup and Ball.

A traditional toy believed to have belonged to Jane. Apparently, she was very good at it!

"She could throw the spilikens for us, better than anyone else, and she was wonderfully successful at cup and ball. She found a resource sometimes in that simple game, when she suffered from weak eyes and could not work or read for long together." (Caroline Austen)

The Dressing Room

This is a small room perhaps used as a dressing room or visitors bedroom.  It houses lots of bits and pieces of Jane's and also some photos of the houses she visited or lived in during her life - including Steventon, Bath, Southampton, Godmersham, Chawton and Winchester.

On this shelf is a little needlecase (the upright "card" in the middle of the top shelf)  She made this and it's here with the handmade wrapper bearing the words "With Aunt Jane's love". She made it as a present for her neice Louisa.

The case also displays items found under the floorboards of the house - penknife, nibs, cutlerly, a wooden plain and a small toy cannon.

Right at the bottom of one case is a handkerchief made by Jane with Cassandra's initials.  Incredibly delicately worked and perfect satin stitching.   Sadly, my photo didn't come out (no flash photography allowed and I only had my phone)

The Bedroom Tableau, contains various items including the quilt Jane, Cassandra and their mother made.  The photo and details are on the 1st posting. (scroll down slightly)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Jane Austen's quilt (odd piecing) and the outside of the house in Chawton-1st posting of 3

I imagine that most Jane Austen fans, like me, will one day find their way to the house she lived in at Chawton, Hampshire, where the Jane Austen museum is housed.

I will do a blog later about the rooms, their contents and history, but for now, I'll show you the outside and talk about the quilt she made with her sister and mother.

 The door on the left goes to the kitchen area where you could make a lavender bag and have a go at writing with a quill, and the door on the right takes you around the house.

Above the front of the house faces the small road through the village.

Opposite are a small tea shop and a larger pub.  (nb service in both is fairly slow and the food expensive and not brilliant - the pub food is slightly better than the cafe, but we had to wait nearly 45 minutes for ham, egg and chips, and our coffees never arrived. Local residents have made their own Residents Only Parking Signs but the museum assured me that you could park here quite legally providing you left enough space for a bus to pass down the road)

Jane's bedroom is the one tucked above and slightly to the right of the white doorway, and overlooks the courtyard and outbuildings, although you can see some of the garden from there.  She shared the room with her sister, Casandra.

Below:  Looking from the garden at the front of the house towards the road.

The back garden which extends through the hedge and to the right.

The Quilt
I had read somewhere a while back, that there was a problem with the piecing of this quilt so was expecting something obviously wrong.  As I recall it was to do with fitting the pieces around the centre lozenge shape.  I couldn't see anything untowards at all and the piecing looked good to me!

I did have a problem with the borders around the diamond shapes so sketched them out for you.  I thought that if I bought an image of the quilt on a postcard I could ink the shapes in for you, but if you look closely, you'll see the postcard distorts the shapes into squares so it wasn't the easiest thing to do!

I imagine that the black and white spotty fabric must have been in short supply because I can't think why else you'd piece in any other way than between each lozenge to make a strip, then between each strip to make the quilt.

Anyhoo, here's the odd piecing of the black and white material for you........

Here's what the guide books tells us: "The quilt was made by Mrs Austen, Jane and Cassandra.

In a letter to Cassandra on 31st May 1811 Jane writes "have you remembered to collect pieces for the patchwork? - we are now at a standstill".  

The quilts has just two layers - the patchwork top and a backing but no wadding, so is a coverlet rather than a quilt.     

The patchwork uses 64 different fabrics and was created using two sizes of lozenge diamond, and a rhomboid shape of black and white spotted fabric for the latice effect which divides the diamonds.

There is a central diamond-shaped floral motif, which features a basket of flowers, and surrounding this are sequences of four diamond-shaped patches.  Around the edges is a border of smaller diamond patches displaying landscapes and flowers.

The quilt was one of the earliest items in the Museum collection."

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Japanese garden at Tatton - snippets

Forgive me for all the garden photos just recently - it's that time of year!   I've been out and about enjoying the sunshine and it seems little else.

My DD treated me to a tour of the Japanese Gardens at Tatton. It doesn't take long but we were lucky enough to have a tour guide between ourselves so felt free to ask questions, and I learned a lot.  I have a hankering to dig up all my lovely flowers....

and replace them with moss and topiary, and gentle asymetrical interpretations of clouds and boulders. A tea house wouldn't go amiss either.  What a pity I didn't visit these gardens at the start of the Orientation exhibitions with SixandFriends.... very inspiring.

Shinto Temple.  Made out of the wood from a cryptomeria tree - it's used to the damp and doesn't rot easily and is found widely in Japan.  I think this temple was built in the 1930's and the copper on the roof has had to be replaced but not the wood.

The little bridge is designed to give a reflection in the water, and is called almond eyed, which you can see in the photo below.

The shape evolved from Chinese defensive bridges which were a little more arched - it's said that a horse can't manage to get up and over this shape (can't get to grips with it's legs)

 This tree - an acer - has been trimmed as it grew to resemble clouds. That funny zigzag pathway is a bridge, which for health and safety reasons we weren't allowed to cross.

It had a couple of cranes in the water (cranes symbolise heritage and all the years that have passed) and a turtle (turtles signify what is to come)

You can just see the teahouse in the photo above - on the far left.  My research for Life 5 was very helpful in understanding the tea ceremony and the relevance of objects and their placement, and why this tea house was here.

There were lots of these lamps dotted around.  They are supposed to be in pairs, and they're all different.  You could spend a lot of lovely time drawing these, but sadly when you're on a tour, you can't wander off and do your own thing.  The gardens are only visible from the outside normally, so I guess that little dream will never happen.

Very enjoyable.  And like I said, it maybe time for a little Zen in Chez Rainbow.  Mind you, where would I grow tomatoes?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sarehole Mill

I went off piste this afternoon, and no, this has nothing to do with me being tiddly the other day!!

I had to go to Birmingham this afternoon, and thought you might like to share my visit to Sarehole Mill, where I stopped for tea.

If you're a Tolkein/Lord of the Rings fan, you may just have heard that he grew up around Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, and the woodlands surrounding them, and that they not only influenced but made appearances in the books, along with some of the characters in his childhood.  (eg did you know Sam Gangees was the name of a local doctor who invented a cotton wool dressing for wounds - made from cotton. And that the delightful soft and fluffy Sam Gangees in Lord of the Rings married Rosie Cotton.)

Here's the outside taken from the Mill Pond.  You have to have a pond in order to store water for the water wheel - it's let in via a sluice gate. This mill also used Moseley Bog as a storage for water too, because when the Mill was working full strength it had to power 2 waterwheels and 7 sets of grinding stones.

And here's the other side of that building, with the tea shop. Just small and understated with a choice of 2 cakes, a few choccy bars and the odd plastic dinosaur...perfect.  It rates 4/5 for ambience.

The mill became derelict in Tolkein's life time, but was restored (with some funds from him) and became as you see it today in the mid 1970's. He would have seen it restored before he died.

People who visit Birmingham for the first time, with it's huge shopping centre, and thriving, colourful night life, and numerous inhabitants, think the city is a large urban sprawl, but there are many many treasures if you know where to look for them.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Thinking about colours and quilting patterns for Life 9

I understand that a couple of folk after reading the title of yesterday's posting, thought I was giving up the Life quilts for a while, and wondered what I was going to do next.

However, I think I might be doing life quilts for life!!  I've been thinking a lot about what I'm doing and where I'm going just recently, and I've decided that what really matters to me, is to carry on doing quilts and paintings that mean something to me, and contain a truth - my voice if you like. Even at the age of 57 it's nice to be liked and do quilts that others find appealing, but in truth, if the world hated what I did, I'd still do it. It's become a lifestyle!

I have never won a quilt competition and I seriously doubt if I ever would anyway, but that's not important. Genuinely it isn't!  It isn't a hobby, it isn't a way of making a living either.  It just is. I feel very liberated having tucked that one under my belt!

 I've been gesso-ing these panels after stitching and am going to treat them like the pages in my altered books.    The stitching isn't perfectly straight - it's free machining and was done to create a loose feel. I don't have stitch controls or specialist equipment, it's just my eyes and my hands. I want the text to be there but not entirely visible - to be lurking beneath the surface and bothering the overlying images.

 I'm stitching the body at the moment and it takes time, but I'm also considering the next stage.  I'm thinking of the background quilting. I'm inclined to fill in with continuous patterning and usually choose a triangular shape or washboards.  I wanted something different for this one so took paper and pencil and doodled.  I think I like the random brick wall but on a larger scale.

There will be words in the background too and I was going to use this stitching to highlight them, rather than pick them out in stitch first.  But I've rethought. I'm going to make this wall have graffiti like text if I can manage it.  This is something difficult for me. Normally I'm quite controlled, but feel the need for this quilt to be raw and rough edged, so I'm going to paint the text first in acrylics using a brush with no guidelines.  It won't be an attractive neat finish!!  Cripes. Risky stuff. But I've persuaded myself that rules don't apply to art! So pretentious for 11 am on an ordinary Tuesday.

This led to considering colours.  I've decided to use that very dark green/grey as a background.  The words need to stand out and need to jar a bit.

I love the burnt orange with the green (bottom left) but think the red next to it will be more dramatic.  It's appropriately called Blood Red.