What better way to spend Bank Holiday weekend then with my friend Ruth Brown. We try to meet up two or three times a year in one of our studios for some dedicated ‘play’ time. This time I visited Ruth in her studio on Sunk Island and took over all my book making stuff. In between lots of catching up, coffee and cake (and some experimental work with breakdown printing that I will share later) I finished a book that I had started during our family holiday in June. It is just smaller than A5 and I used a waxed, coloured linen thread and coptic stitch to join the book covers to the signatures (paper). Really happy with how neat the stitching looks!
I also took over some mulberry paper to see how it performed when making bookcloth. My previous pieces have all used Kozu paper which is a little pricey. The mulberry paper (from Colourcraft) worked beautifully. I have covered 3 boards ready to make a sort of ‘double’ book in which one of the boards is a common back board. This is a seriously addictive hobby!
Lots of people have asked how I am going to spend the £1000 award I received for winning the Art category at Festival of Quilts. Lots of encouragement to spend it on something for myself. Well I did spend £40 on a small piece of work by Rosie James but the rest of it is going into the studio ‘pot’. Which definitely qualifies as something for myself! Although I treat my art just as seriously and (hopefully) as professionally as I do my day job the reality is that it does not pay. This is the first significant sum of money that has gone in the pot. And whilst I hope that it is not the last I do recognise that I am incredibly lucky that the money I earn in my day job allows me to work in the way that I want to and in the wonderful environment that is my studio.
That said the unexpected income has ‘allowed’ me to order 60 metres of Cotton Poplin Delphina (from Whaleys of Bradford) rather than the usual 20 metres thus spreading the delivery charge out a bit. And it has ‘allowed’ me to invest in some new silkscreens. I typically buy one most years whilst I am at Festival of Quilts but, because I damage the occasional one, I only have 4 good screens at the moment. Which slows me down when I am breakdown printing as I only pull each screen a few times before cleaning it and remaking it. So I have invested in 10 new screens from Coated Screens Limited. Five at 14 x 20 inches and five rather large ones at 20 x 30 inches. Buying in bulk has reduced the cost considerably. Now I just need to figure out where to store them!
Up until now I have always been able to use my studio for photography. It has some white walls and very good natural light topped up with cool white fluorescent lighting. My photos have been OK. They have got some pieces into curated exhibitions. But photos of pieces from my very pale, ephemeral Still series have not been good enough. And now I have completed a piece that is just too big for me to photograph in my studio. Ruins 7 is 180cm wide by 249cm high.
Ruins 7 (detail)
At first I considered turning it through 90degrees, suspending it from the ceiling in my studio with some sort of backdrop suspended behind it. Hmm – not easy! Instead my son Cal borrowed a gallery space that at least allowed me to hang the piece against a white wall albeit still hung on it’s side.
I found a great web article on photographing quilts (http://www.hollyknott.com/stq/) with lots of info on how to make your own lighting rig. After many fruitless hours I discovered that you can’t buy really really bright compact fluorescent bulbs in cool white in the UK. Not to be put off Cal came up with a design using multiple lightfittings on two uprights. I brought wooden uprights and some shelf brackets to use as legs. Instead he borrowed some proper lights and a tripod off a friend. Clever lad!
And today we photographed the piece. Until now I have really only seen it on the bench. It looked great hung up and will look even better if I ever get to show it in a gallery with tall ceilings.
I’m not sharing an image of the whole piece as it is being submitted for an exhibition. However the detail shot above gives a good sense of the piece. Fingers crossed.
So where to begin. Festival of Quilts is huge. There are a dozen or so white walled gallery spaces, hundreds of open competition quilts and an awful lot of traders. There have been years when I have been so totally overwhelmed that I have left after a couple of hours. The truly amazing selection of work has sometimes made me wonder ‘why bother’ but at other times has energised me to rush back to the studio to make art.
This year has been a good one. My piece Ruins 6 won 1st prize in the open Art Category, Vestiges got a ‘highly commended’ in the Miniature Category and Ruins 5 was shortlisted for Fine Art Quilt Masters. I floated on air and was humbled by all the congratulations and kind words. They even played my favourite Blur song (Song 2) when I went on stage to collect my award. Of course this was a completely random thing as the music is pre-selected but it made my grin even wider!
(270cm x 135cm, £3500)
In between meeting friends and stewarding in the SAQA gallery I managed to visit all the galleries on my ‘must see’ list and saw quite a lot of the open competition quilts. My favourite gallery was probably Art Textile: Made In Britain: Concealed where I was blown away by the work of Rosie James. I also really enjoyed Claire Benn and Ingrid Press’s gallery.
Unlike many visitors I never seem to remember to take photos of the works I like – for the most part I am too absorbed in looking and responding. I did take a few and here is a selection.
Borrowed (Henry Matisse, Tom and me) by Maria Thomas
Shortlisted in Fine Art Quilt Masters
Rust rose by Sue Hotchkis
Shortlisted in Fine Art Quilt Masters
Big Sister by Claire Passmore
Detail of Surface III by Isabelle Wiessler
Thames Lock 101 by Mags Ramsay
Rainy Day Dora Creek #13 by Judy Hooworth
Ruins 7, work in progress
It is scary stuff adding colour to a piece that I have already invested hours and hours of my time in but it needed to be done. I was not happy with the piece and would probably have filed it in the bin so what did I have to loose? But it has been a long time since I added colour to a finished piece so I spent a pleasant morning trying different types of media and different application techniques on some small Ruins samples. I chose a Markal oil stick and yesterday started applying colour to Ruins 7.
Ironing freezer paper masks on the quilt
Adding Markal to the mask
Brushing across the Markal onto the cloth using a small stiff brush
Removing the mask to see if there is enough colour applied
Lessons learnt. Don’t apply Markal too close to the edge of the mask as it is really easy to accidently slip off the paper. Make sure you remove any small specs that have fallen off the oil stick before you start brushing. Wash your hands regularly. And remember to breath!