Monthly Archives: March 2015

Back in the studio

After Images sample

After Images sample

At last my travels are over (for now) and I have been able to get back into the studio! There is not a lot to be said for sitting in a plane for 14 hours but it did mean that I had thought through exactly what I wanted to do to one of my ‘happy accident’ discharged pieces of cloth. Looking at the darkest piece had reminded me of fragments of old sepia and black photographs; layers of our lives, past and present, the memories that stay with us and those that fade away. So I gave the cloth the working title of ‘After Image’.

My first degree is in Chemistry and I have always enjoyed working this into my art. I have made a couple of pieces inspired by Copper in the past but this new piece of cloth got me thinking about the fact that we all share the same chemistry. Over 99% of the human body is made up of just 6 elements: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium and Phosphorus. From this finite set of elements are created infinite possibilities.

So I began by adding a layer of fine print onto the discharged squares using three thermofaxes – one of the periodic table and two of different molecules. I have had these for a while but have never found the perfect place to use them until now! I then created a temporary screen and printed larger grey ‘water’ molecules across the surface of the fabric. (The human body is made up of 57% water.) All this was done using screenprinting inks so the cloth dried quickly.

The Contemporary Quilt group challenge for this summers Festival of Quilts is called Elements (how convenient!!) and has a size requirement of 45 x 80cm. I was able to cut this and 4 small pieces approximately 20 x 20cm from the cloth. I have used the small squares to sample different stitching ideas. My ideas evolved as I moved from one to the next. In the first one I stitched different size circles and connected them with straight lines. I liked the idea but wanted something less ‘rigid’. So in the second piece I tried to replicate one of those diagrams that show flight routes between airports. I stitched curved lines spreading out from one point. Sometimes stopping, sometimes becoming a hub for more lines. Having stitched the piece I printed small white circles on the hubs. I liked this piece a lot. In the third piece I tried adding chemical symbols in different ways. I liked the H and the N but neither where obviously chemical elements. So in the fourth piece I stitched a more detailed symbol which included the name of the element as well as it’s symbol. Then I added a set of curved lines. I love this and now know how I will stitch the full piece! I am so glad to be back in the studio!

All four After Image samples

All four After Image samples

 

Transitions – the first exhibition by Etcetera

Hidden Message 13

Hidden Message 13

I am very pleased to announce the first exhibition by Etcetera at the Platform Gallery in Clithero, UK between 12th and 27th September 2015!

Grafitti 1 by Helen Conway

Grafitti 1 by Helen Conway

Etcetera is a group of 7 textile artists (including me). The other members are Linda Bilsborrow, Julie Bunter, Helen Conway, Isobel Holland, Magie Relph and Sandra Wynam. We formed about two years ago with the specific intention of supporting and encouraging each other as we strive to develop as textile artists. An important part of that is exhibiting in ‘white space’ galleries alongside artists using other media. We are a diverse group so chose the broad theme of Transitions for our first exhibition. It has been interpreted in very different ways by the group members. I will be showing pieces from my Hidden Message series which are inspired by the cultural transition taking in place in China today.

You can find more about us on our website www.stitchetcetera.com

You can find more about the Platform Gallery at Platform Gallery

Address: Station Road, Clithero, BB7 2JT

Telephone: 01200 425566

Opening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4.30pm

Julie Bunter

 

Happy Accidents

Printing with discharge paste then thickened dyes

Printing with discharge paste then thickened dyes

My day job involves quite a bit of travelling and there are periods when I have a series of trips week after week that keep me out of the studio. The month of March is one such period with two trips to Germany, one to China and one within the UK. And, of course, each trip requires some level of preparation further eating into studio time. So I came back from my week at Rydal Hall knowing that I should not expect to do anything in the studio for the next 4 – 5 weeks. I took the opportunity to put my sewing machine in for a service and had a good tidy up in the studio. And tried not to feel bereft!

But last Saturday I realized I could, if I was quick, squeeze in a bit of bench work so I decided to do some more experimenting with discharge. I had a lovely 2 hours laying down discharge paste first then over printing with thickened dyes. And the next morning I found time to iron then wash the pieces. I was getting a LOT of colour coming out of the fabric as I rinsed it. And then realized that I had printed onto fabric from my ‘scoured’ box rather than from my ‘soda soaked’ box! Oh boy, if I could have kicked myself I would! I quickly added soda and hot water to the rinse bucket in the hope of salvaging something. The results can best be described as pale and vaguely interesting.

Happy accident number 1: forgetting to use pre soda soaked fabric!

Happy accident number 1: forgetting to use pre soda soaked fabric!

This is the first time I have ever made this mistake and I was really annoyed with myself so I stayed up late on Sunday evening repeating the work on pre-soda soaked fabric thinking that I could find enough time on Monday evening to iron off and rinse the pieces. But the day job intervened and it was Tuesday evening before I got back into the studio. I was horrified to find that the pieces of fabric had already started to discharge leaving areas of yellow, green and purple! I have had pieces discharge when I have hung them outside in the sun but I’ve this had happened with the fabric sat on the bench.

Fabric printed with discharge paste then thickened dye then left for 2 days during which the discharge process started

Fabric printed with discharge paste then thickened dye then left for 2 days during which the discharge process started

I ironed the fabrics until the fabric felt like cardboard but couldn’t get the colours to change – I really thought that I had ruined yet more fabric. But I figured that I might as well rinse them out and was wonderfully surprised when all the ‘nasty’ colours washed away leaving a couple of really gorgeous pieces of fabric. I had used black and dark brown. In one piece (pictured above) I used full strength colours which have discharged to indigo and a dark sepia. And in the piece below I used medium strength colours which discharged to pale blue greys and beiges. In both pieces there is a lot more detail and texture than I have seen in my previous experiments. Could this be because I left them so long? Maybe. I’ll have to do some more experimenting to find out.

Pale version using medium strength thickened dyes over discharge paste

Pale version using medium strength thickened dyes over discharge paste

Detail from pale piece

Detail from pale piece

Detail from dark piece

Detail from dark piece

Retreat at Rydal Hall

Last week I spent a glorious 5 days in the company of 13 other members of the Contemporary Quilt Group at Rydal Hall in Ambleside in the Lake District. The group has been meeting for an annual retreat for several years now. There is a core of about 9 or 10 plus ‘part-timers’ like me who attend every couple of years. This year the group included Linda Bilsborrow, Janet Edgington, Julie Bunter, Ruth Axson, Pauline Stubbings, Linda Young, Judy Fairless, Jean Marshall, Karen Hurrell, Millie Thomas and Mags Ramsay. We were joined in the evenings by Gillian Travis and her friend Annie.

The group has been using Rydal Hall for several years. It was chosen because many of the members wanted to spend their afternoons out walking. It is also well placed for lots of retail therapy with great art shops in Ambleside and neighbouring towns. I am not a walker and spent most of my time indoors stitching. I did venture out to the Rydal Hall Tea Rooms for lunch each day. A walk of maybe 20 metres! But well worth it for the soup, the cakes and the views of Rydal Brook which was running very fast thanks to heavy rain during the week.

Rydal Brook in full flow

Rydal Brook in full flow

The Hall itself is quiet and welcoming. The group rate gave us the use of the Old Kitchen which is a lovely, well lit room. Although it was a bit of a squeeze setting up work tables for 12 people! The photo below was taken early on Tuesday morning whilst the room still looked reasonably tidy. It didn’t stay that way. Being a retreat meant we were all working on our own pieces at our own speeds. Some used the week to work into sketchbooks, others used the week to start new projects. The activities were really varied from machine quilting through to monoprinting. And all done in great company, sometimes quiet but many times accompanied by laughter. A great getaway from our daily lives.

The Old Kitchen set up ready for a days work

The Old Kitchen set up ready for a days work

Although we worked on our own pieces most of the time we did stop each day for a group activity / talk. I gave a short talk on dyeing fabric using ferrous sulphate solution and tea. This is something I have tried several times with mixed levels of success but it can produce some wonderful results.

Fabric dipped in ferrous sulphate solution then in strong tea

Fabric dipped in ferrous sulphate solution then in strong tea

Fabric dipped in strong tea solution then in ferrous sulphate solution

Fabric dipped in strong tea solution then in ferrous sulphate solution

‘Rust dyeing’ seems to be an ‘in’ thing at the moment. Several of the ladies had participated in workshops with Alice Fox and others and brought some of their work to share with the group.

Work in progress by Pauline Stubbings

Work in progress by Pauline Stubbings

Work in progress by Ruth Axson

Work in progress by Ruth Axson

I spent my week working on the new Hidden Message pieces. It was good that I had got the composition of 3 pieces completed prior to the retreat. The lack of a design wall made it much more difficult to judge whether new compositions ‘worked’ or not.  It also made it difficult to gauge the success of the quilting. I returned home with 4 pieces completed and 1 in progress. They are currently pinned on my design wall and, overall, I am delighted with the outcome of the retreat.

Back to the real world tomorrow (unfortunately)!