Wednesday 29 June 2011

Variety is the spice of life they say

We always have so many different projects on the go here that there's no danger of getting bored. As soon as one thing gets too much we switch to something else! The brand new Creative Sketchbooks course is imminent and we're spending a lot of time working on new drawings, making prints and collages and choosing existing pages from our own books to show as examples. 

There are video demonstrations throughout the course and this kind of tonal drawing with pencils is one of the first. 

The basic techniques can be used to interpret any subject but we often use everyday simple objects to illustrate  methods. Here I've raided the cutlery drawer. The way spoons cradle each other makes for quite a complex composition. All those highlights and shadows are great to draw.

Back on the sewing front - I've just put the finishing touches to the latest embroidered panel. It's now mounted on a painted box canvas and wrapped ready for the trip to our stand at Festival of Quilts. I used a gorgeous metallic paint on the frame (Jacquard Lumiere - Halo Violet Gold) and picked out the wings of the moth in the niche with the same colour. I love the way that paint colour changes as the light catches it.

Making the outfits for the fashion show has been so much fun that I'm being side tracked right now into other dressmaking projects. This is a lovely length of discharged jersey I spotted last week at the Rag Market. It was an absolute bargain price but I'm too shy to say how little it cost. It's cut out ready to make a T shirt when I can find a free hour or two!

If it looks more expensive when it's finished than it actually was you'll probably see me wearing it on DMTV or at the show in a few weeks time. If it doesn't I'll keep it for gardening!

Hope you are all feeling creative today!

Saturday 25 June 2011

One piece at a time

Considering I make as many quilts as I do I don't actually do much patchwork. When I do though it makes me remember just how much I love it!

Laura and I have been making Rail Fence quilts for an upcoming DMTV video and playing with her hand dyed fabrics was so enjoyable I just had to search out those Cut and Come Again blocks I made in a flash of enthusiasm the day we had Edwina over to demonstrate the technique.

The heap of blocks had been buried under more recent work and were in danger of being quite forgotten. Today I joined them together and I think they'll be lovely quilted as a sofa throw. This was an entirely foreign way of work for me and I still haven't quite come to terms with the random nature of the design. I am usually more in control of how something will turn out and don't feel comfortable with serendipity! Because there was no master plan I haven't decided exactly how I'll quilt it yet so I'm hoping a few days on the studio wall might help.

The great thing about the technique was I could make good use of odd scraps of hand dyed fabrics and even find a place for some precious bits like this spiral screenprint. The finished top looks like an old fashioned Crazy quilt - who knows, I may quilt it like the Victorians with lots of embroidery!

This is our Bengal, guardian of the quilt. I promise Toby isn't really fierce - that's a yawn not a roar! He's sitting in one of his favourite places - the quilt on the long arm machine. He treats it like a hammock on a warm day - unless I can persuade him to find another sunbathing spot that crow quilt may never get finished.

Hope you're all having a good weekend - Linda

Wednesday 22 June 2011

We're fast approaching the busiest time of the year as we do our best to be prepared for our stand at Festival of Quilts in August. Of course there's nothing like a deadline to focus the mind and I get great satisfaction from finishing off pieces that have been lying around the studio for what seems an age. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes trimming and adding a binding - makes you wonder why you put these things off.

I do know this piece is a bit weird. I've made a number of small panels based on the idea of moths as a symbol of fleeting and transitory thoughts. Nothing to do with my approaching big birthday which has an '0' at the end and a '6' at the beginning and might be seen as the start of impending old age and unreliable memory! At best I think of myself as middle aged but my children then ask how many 120 year olds I know!

The moths represent the thoughts we all have in the middle of a sleepless night - great ideas for quilt designs for instance. At 3am you just know it is destined to be a show stopper but in the cold light of day the thought has gone and you just can't bring it back. This silver moth is one of those creative ideas just about to go who knows where?

I've used digitally embroidered moths but painted in some of the blank shapes with fabric paint. I like how the metallic paint colour contrasts with the texture of the stitch.

The bubbly textured moth shapes have been discharged and recoloured in a single process from the original hand dyed fabric using DeColorant discharge paste stamped on with my favourite print material - compressed sponge. Don't you just love those bubbly marks?

I always have several different things on the go at the same time - for the last few weeks I've been making a series of botanical drawings on paper and fabric and featuring some of them as step by step demonstrations in our DMTV videos. The final video of this mini series has gone onto the website today. I have loved making these little panels combining a number of different techniques and I know I shall carry on making more!

This close up shows the hand stitch detail on the peapod and the angular free motion quilting that surrounds it. I don't mind investing time in my work and I just spend as long as it takes to get something I am content with. I'm often asked for advice about pricing work. It's a difficult subject as so much of what we all do does involve a lot of time. I've decided to price these panels to sell! They'll cost £100 each and while that may seem quite a sum to many, because after all they are only 12inches square, it's no reflection on the hours invested. We'll see if I've pitched it right if they sell or not!

One final thing - if you've been thinking about joining us for our Creative Quiltmaking course there are only a few places left and registration will close on July 29th. You have been warned!!

Hope you're all being creative and feeling good about what you make! Bye for now - Linda

Monday 20 June 2011

You can never have too many!

If you want to know what a hundred paintbrushes looks like then take a look at this! Amo you are a very bad influence on my bank balance - but thanks anyway for the link to the bargain seconds site!! Even bearing in mind how hopeless Laura is at cleaning her brushes up after a painting session - these should keep us going for a while!

So, no pressure then but maybe someone around here had better do a bit more painting - they may have been a bargain but I do have quite a lot of paintbrushes already so I need to justify the purchase! I've been drawing apples and peapods for DMTV videos lately and at this time of year I'm spoilt for choice when I'm searching for inspiration in the garden. A five minute walk with my camera today and I found a few likely contenders.

This Forest Pansy is one of my favourite things. With the sun shining through the heart shaped leaves it really lights up the garden. I first saw them when we were in France a few years ago and had to track one down for us as soon as I got home. Thankfully it survived our harsh winter this year.

There is a whole row of these glorious red lilies snaking through one bed. I'm always drawn to warm colours and they look amazing this week. The flowers would be good subjects for a painting but if anything the plump buds have even more tempting shapes to tackle.

All the Clematis are growing apace - they are great in a crowded space because they are happy to climb and scramble. The buds of these are very elongated and elegant - lovely to draw!

There has been some sewing done this week, in fact rather a lot, but most is of the top secret variety. I can show these latest bags though. I'm pleased how the lovely metal handles and chains make them look quite professional!

That cannibalised old quilt has yet another new lease of life with the addition of a few embroidered birds and feathers. I hope these'll look good on the stand at Festival of Quilts.

Must get back to work - talk again soon - Linda

Tuesday 14 June 2011

False economies ?

The fashion show this summer seems to be taking over our lives right now. We staggered home with heaps of stuff last time we shopped for fabric but unbelievably it seems even more is required. And zips, shoulder pads, ribbons,  satin binding............

There was no way out of it - another trip to the Rag Market in Birmingham was called for. There's nothing you can't find there.  Even though a trip to the city is a bit of a trek for us countryfolk, it's worth the journey for the bargain prices.

At this time of year the delicious fruit is as irresistible as the fabric.

We got everything we needed and after all the excitement of shopping we felt a sudden need to have lunch. Happily, Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant is right by the market. The atmosphere in there is great and the hams and strings of chillis are like something from a 17th century Dutch still life painting.

A selection of good Italian bread with oil and balsamic would probably be enough lunch for most people but somehow we managed to fit in a dish of pasta as well. This shopping business takes stamina as I'm sure you'd agree. It's a very good job the fabrics were a bargain though!

Talk to you soon - Linda

Sunday 12 June 2011

It's official!

Yesterday it was officially confirmed that large parts of the country are suffering drought conditions and garden hoses would be banned. So guess what happens? The heavens open and it's been raining relentlessly all day. There's no sign of a let up and since I'm a bit of a fair weather gardener any outdoor activities are out of the question. It's not all bad news though. There are few places I'd rather be on a cold wet day than in my kitchen.  I'm experimenting with the bread baking - all the recipes recommend slashing the top of the loaf before it goes into the oven; it's supposed to help the final rise. I've left mine uncut the last few times and haven't noticed any difference. These two are still warm from the oven and look pretty appetising I think.

I've always got so many different projects on the go that it's easy to swamp the little workspace that I have. While the dough was proving I braved the downpour and ran out to my studio (which is a converted building in the garden) to do a spot of tidying up. When you only have a small room it's important to be organised. The panel below might be familiar because I think I've showed it here before but this morning it got mounted onto a gessoed canvas.

It may only be small but it's still satisfying to finish something! This has a really deep canvas and I'm pleased with the effect.

When I stepped back and looked at it on the wall though I wasn't entirely happy with the colours so I rolled another fine veil of white paint over the edges to blend them a bit more.

I managed to avoid the embroidery with the paint, just picking up on the raised areas of the quilting. Much improved! Now it can be put away until we dress the stand at Festival of Quilts.

I wasn't really in the mood for dressmaking but I did manage to cut one of the jacket linings out so there was some progress on the fashion front. Laura keeps turning up with incredible drawings and expects me to know how to make patterns! It's all very trial and error but I expect we'll get there in the end.

Bye for now - Linda

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Mission accomplished!

We're back home after a mad dash over into Wales. It was a very early start to the day but the quilts are delivered to the gallery and now we can relax about the exhibition for a while.

The Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery is a delight! Housed in lovely old industrial buildings on the site of the 19th century Gadlys ironworks, there are fascinating local history exhibits and two beautiful galleries with white walls and great lighting.

This is the welcome desk that greets you as you enter.

And here's a glimpse of the ground floor gallery viewed from the shop area. We didn't have much time to browse but I noticed lots of jewellery, ceramics and tempting art books. I'll make sure I look properly next time!

Here Belinda and I are chatting in the upstairs gallery - another lovely, dramatic space for our work. There won't be as much white wall as this on show when our stuff gets hung. Poor Belinda has to do all the hard work now. We wanted her to have options so we took lots of quilts, panels and paintings - I hope we didn't take too many!

Of course, we never go anywhere without checking the catering - the museum cafe comes highly recommended! That's me and my other half (also known as he who loads the car, drives the car and then unloads it again!!) waiting for our lunch. The staff were really friendly and there was a selection of books to leaf through as you wait - what more could anyone want?

If you'd like information about quilt study days coinciding with the exhibition and our 'Meet the Artists' session on August 5th please contact Belinda via or call 01685 886729

I know not everyone can make it but it would be lovely to meet up with you if you live near enough to visit.

Talk again soon - Linda

Tuesday 7 June 2011

One almost down, several more to go!

Deadlines have a habit of creeping up on you don't they? Our work is due to be delivered to the gallery at Cynon Valley tomorrow and today we've been frantically busy packing and labelling everything. All the framed or mounted pieces are now swaddled in layers of bubblewrap and the quilts are rolled and packaged ready for the trip.

The exhibition will include work both old and new. Here's a new panel of mine that hasn't been shown before although it may look familiar to some of our online students. It was inspired by one of the course activities! Making work to illustrate the course was really a good incentive to me - I ended up with lots of new pieces that wouldn't have happened otherwise!

The panel is mounted onto a stretched canvas and the detail below shows how I've combined lots of contour quilting together with fabric painting, applique and painted fusible transfer onto a hand dyed piece of linen.

So, fingers crossed we're ready for one deadline at least! Of course, the very minute one potential crisis is averted, it's time to take a deep breath and move on to tackle the next! You all know by now we're taking part in the Fashion Show at Festival of Quilts this summer so I won't bore you with the details of that deadline - they're just ongoing! I get a shock every time I catch a glimpse of the tailor's mannequin through my studio window! She's currently festooned with bits of airbrushed fabric and chopped up quilt as we audition design ideas!

Just to keep us on our toes we also produce a new video each week for members of DesignMatters TV. That's not really a deadline is it - more a way of life!

One of the subjects that had been requested by viewers was drawing with coloured pencils. Seems lots of people have them but aren't sure how to get the best from them. The little apple on its twig was a suitable candidate for a sketchbook drawing but once I'd done it I loved the effect so much I wanted to develop the drawing into a textile piece.

The sketchbook video goes live tomorrow but here's the fabric version I made with some of its free motion quilting completed. Isn't it amazing how a simple bit of quilting makes everything look so much more substantial?

I worked in cream on cream to keep the background quilting very low key. Then I hand embroidered the fruit and leaves with bold, colourful stitches while still trying to keep the look of a botanical illustration. Laura says it wouldn't look out of place in a National Trust gift shop. I'm not sure if that was meant as a compliment but I shall take it as such! Members of DMTV will be able to see the finished version of this in a video in 2 or 3 weeks time but I plan to have it and its sister piece on the stand at Festival of Quilts in August.

I hope you'll come and see them both!

Bye for now - Linda

Saturday 4 June 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

We always have plenty of exciting projects to occupy us but this week has been particularly busy. We've reopened registration to our Online City and Guilds Creative Quiltmaking course now that our tutors have a little extra time to devote to new students. There have been quite a number of graduates recently from all of our online courses meaning we can finally offer some more places. Laura has been building exhibition galleries for the latest graduates so to get a taste of the fabulous work our students produce please take a few minutes to visit;

Our courses are very much design based and we encourage students to work from a variety of inspirational sources. Today, while en route to a visit to Cheltenham we saw these fields and were stopped dead in our tracks. What an uplifting sight! Who could fail to be inspired by this?

 OK, so fields of poppies are something of a cliche but only because they are so amazing/ wonderful/irresistible! This field was a fabulous tapestry of poppies, rapeseed, rocket, field beans and barley.

I make no apologies for including so many images - it was hard to choose from all the ones I took!

The red was so intense the camera struggled to cope!

If anyone tried to plant like this they'd find it impossible yet nature, left to its own devices, manages to work wonders.

Needless to say we were quite late getting home after this unexpected distraction - I am just so pleased I had my camera with me to capture the moment!

We are off to Wales on Wednesday to deliver work for our upcoming summer exhibition. It's very exciting to show both old and new work in such a large space. We've never had the opportunity to exhibit so many pieces together before and we are really looking forward to seeing how it all looks. We shall be at the museum for a 'Meet the Artists' session on the fifth of August.  I'll post photos of the venue next week and if you'd like to visit you'll be able to find full details on the website soon.

Hope the creative mojo is with you!!


Friday 3 June 2011

Escape to the country

Everyone needs to recharge their batteries from time to time. We love our garden but keeping it looking good involves working in it rather than lying back and relaxing. This week we turned our backs on the weeding and watering and escaped to visit one of our other favourite places. Stockton Bury Gardens are a real treat this time of year and a great place to seek creative inspiration.

There were dramatic poppies in many colours - these dusky pink ones were real show stoppers. Everything about them was beautiful, the delicate papery flowers, the fat buds, the hairy stems and the seedheads.

I think these woven beehives nestling in their brick arches were decorative rather than functional but they were still a lovely feature.

This dark Aquilegia isn't an unusual plant for an English cottage garden but who'd have thought the buds could be as elegant as this?

Looks almost like a bird in flight - I feel the urge to get my watercolours out and get painting!

Hope you're in creative mode this weekend!
Bye for now,