Sunday 24 July 2011

Home again!

I'm not sure if holidays are a good thing. When you go away it takes about 3 days before you can relax and unwind and then you get so laid back it's almost impossible to get back into work mode once you're home! Of course we have an incentive - Festival of Quilts is almost upon us and I'm doing my best to finish off lots of stuff for the stand we're taking.

I've been busy in my garden studio since I got home and the pin board is beginning to look like a gallery as I add each completed piece.

Those days amongst the vines last week inspired me to paint this small panel yesterday. I applied a couple of coats of gesso to the wooden panel and then used acrylic paints for the grapes and leaves.

My favourite black cherries are in season right now and they make a great subject for a painting before they become the main ingredient in a delicious Clafoutis. Funny how food and art are so connected - or maybe that's just how it is for me!!

My work space is pretty chaotic with so much on the go. I'm working from photographs of a butterfly collection here. It's probably not very politically correct these days but I am lucky to have a few very old display cases which were originally university specimens. Laura says I must not acquire any more - she says they make my study look like a museum!

I like to mix painted panels with embroidered ones featuring the similar subjects. This digital design is from Husqvarna but I enjoy changing the colours and combining the embroidery with free motion quilting and hand dyed fabrics. I've used gorgeous Madeira rayon and metallic threads for this version of the design.

Here's another little digital embroidery from Husqvarna worked onto a quilted and painted mini quilt. It's only 6 inches square but mounting it onto a wooden panel makes it look quite special.

Although we're doing our best to get lots of new stuff finished in time we've decided to set up 'work in progress' behind us on our demonstration stand at Festival. We want it to look like our studios at home. People always seem to be interested in how things end up the way they do so we hope they'll enjoy seeing work at various stages. There'll be drawings, samples and quilt tops - who knows we might even get some work finished during the show if there are any quiet moments!

Hope you're all enjoying your weekend - bye for now, Linda

Tuesday 19 July 2011

This really is the last word!

I promised not to write from my holiday in France again but this is just a very quick post on our last day here. Yesterday we drove to the top of the world - at least it felt that way on the Plateau de Beille. This mountain ski station is a famous test of stamina for the Tour de France when it's in the Pyrenees.

The plateau looks rather bleak in my photo but we actually passed through the clouds and back into the sun at 1866 metres. There is a lot of bleached wood lying around among the wild flowers in the meadows. I have never seen so many wild orchids in one place before.

After such a strenuous hike it was a pleasure to get back to Maureen's house for a rest! I filled a few pages of my tiny sketchbook with quick drawings of a piece of old root we liberated from the mountain top.

I don't think I'll be able to smuggle it into my suitcase but my drawings will be a good reminder. I made this one with a water soluble pencil and added water to make a wash in the background.

This page shows an initial drawing in oil pastel with additions of watercolour paint and pencil for fine detail. It's a great luxury having time in daylight hours to sit and doodle like this!!

Next time I write I'll be back at my desk!
By for now,

Sunday 17 July 2011

More from France

I promise this will be the last time I write about my holiday!! I don't want to bore anyone who really wants to read about arty stuff but I am on holiday after all and it has been exciting following 2 stages of the Tour de France. Yesterday was in the mountains when the sprinters struggled with the steep roads and the scarily fast descents.

As you can see I was there to claim my spot bright and early. It was very warm weather but yes, that is snow on the mountain behind me.

Before the riders appear, the spectators along the route, (some of whom have been waiting for many hours) are entertained by a procession of sponsors vehicles. There's loud music and lots of freebies are thrown from the cars. No one stands on ceremony as we all scrabble to grab hats, key rings and packets of sweets and cakes.

Suddenly the first riders appear. This is the echappe out in front of the main pack.

In the blink of an eye they flash past. That hairpin bend barely slows them down at all. Quite terrifying!

Today we watched the depart when the riders cycle out of the town sedately before beginning the stage proper. In theory that provides an opportunity for photographs that are at least in focus. In practice it didn't turn out quite that way but you can at least see how close they pass!

I couldn't resist signing off with another French cliche.

The weather was overcast today but these fields of sunflowers made up for it. Back at Maureen's house we watched the stage finish and our man Cavendish won again. There will be celebrations tonight!

Normal service will be resumed shortly - just as soon as we get home and I can shake off this laid back holiday mode!

Talk again soon - Linda

Friday 15 July 2011

happy holidays

I expect it's a real bore seeing other people's holiday snaps but it is so picturesque here it's impossible not to try to capture the moment. Our recce up the mountain yesterday was really scary. Think hairpin bends and precipitous cliffs and you'll get the picture. I wasn't driving which is just as well as I had my eyes closed most of the time. How the Tour de France cyclists manage the inclines, descents and bends is anyone's guess! Despite being in the back of the car I had braked so many times by the end of the trip that my calf muscles were in permanent spasm!

Even in July the waterfalls are spectacular - it's a pity you can't hear the roar of this cascade for the full effect.

Back in Tarascon the ancient La Castella is the venue for the Bastille Day firework display. As evening approached the crowds gathered to wait for nightfall. The atmosphere was celebratory with families filling the bars and lining the roads below the tower.

This is the third time we've been there on the 14th July and it was as spectacular as ever. No one gets to sleep early this night!

Once the fireworks are finished the band starts up in the square and the dancing begins. There's no sign of English reserve here and everyone joins in whether they know the dance or not.

We may have had a late night but we were up bright and early this morning for the market in Foix. As someone who loves to bake I found these magnificent loaves very impressive.

What good is bread without the specialities of the region?

And maybe a little garlic for added flavour!

I'm sorry if all this sounds as though I work for the local tourist board. I'm sure there must be a downside to this way of life but I confess I haven't found it yet!

We have everything we need for tomorrow's picnic on the mountain. The roads approaching the route will be closed in advance of the tour passing through so we plan an early start and are taking plenty of provisions just in case we get stuck for a while! It should be exciting!!

Talk to you again soon - bye for now,

Wednesday 13 July 2011

bonjour from France!

Thanks to the miracle of Ryanair we arrived in southern France this morning in time for glorious pain au chocolate and delicious coffee for breakfast. OK, so it did mean we had to leave home at 3am but it was worth it.

It's really weird to be at home one minute and suddenly immersed in total 'frenchness' in less than two hours. This is a typical Ariege street full of old houses with no gardens but they certainly love their geraniums.

We always have a number of 'must dos' when we visit France - of course checking that the patisserie is still up to scratch is towards the top of the list. We also sampled Magret de Canard with a couple of the local wines tonight - it's a tough job but someone has to do it and I am more than happy to volunteer.

The main reason for the visit (apart from catching up with my sister and her other half) is to follow two stages of the Tour de France. Our favourite, Mark Cavendish, won again today and is wearing the Green Jersey tonight so we are all happy. Tomorrow we are checking out the route to find the perfect spot on the mountain to see them whizz by on Saturday. They reach such incredible speeds downhill that it makes sense to stand on an uphill stretch. That way we get a bit more time to see who's approaching. If I can manage to focus the camera on anything other than a colourful blur I'll post pictures soon.

We did manage to fit in a visit to a huge new patchwork and quilting shop in Carcassonne this morning. They have only been open for 3 months but they had an incredible range of fabrics and notions. Quiltmaking must be very popular around here. Although I intend to have as much of a break as I can  I've packed my sketchbook and paints with every intention of filling some pages when I have a free minute. Holidays are often the most productive time for sketchbook work!

Thanks for taking the time to visit - bye for now, Linda

Tuesday 12 July 2011

I had a milestone birthday this week. Turning 60 is a shock to the system but, a day later, nothing seems changed, the world is still turning and apart from the fact I keep telling everyone I'm 60 now you know like some scratched record, everything is back to normal!

I have been treated to some wonderful gifts. So what do you give the woman who has everything? Well what about an adjustable sewing stool? Laura spotted this piece of industrial history in a local antique shop.

If you look closely at the feet you can see it was made for Singer sewing machines. I can alter the height of the seat until it's a perfect match for my sewing table.

And how about this for a fascinating object? The 'other half' found the key case in an architectural salvage yard. It may have taken a while but it seems we've got him trained to find treasure at last!

I've always loved the shapes of keys and we've been using them a lot in our work recently, both for printing and embroidery. Ideally it's best if the keys belong to your own house or somewhere you lived in the past - that way it feels that they have greater significance in your artwork but there's a limit to the number of old keys you can accumulate over the years so finding a ready made collection like this is definitely the next best thing.

After scanning and digitising the shapes are stitching out beautifully. This detail shows them used on the sleeve of a fake leather (pleather) jacket which we'll be displaying on our stand at Festival of Quilts next month. Just writing that it's happening next month throws me into a panic - there's still so much to do and so little time to do it in! Better get back on the case!!

Talk to you again soon - Linda

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery

We knew the gallery in Aberdare were planning to produce a brochure for our exhibition which opened last Saturday but we hadn't seen a copy until it arrived in the mail today. What a fantastic job they have done. I just had to share a few of the pages with you!

It's difficult to photograph the brochure very well because the pages are so shiny and reflective.  Not that I'm complaining - glossy paper gives the colours real depth. On first glance it looks as though there is quite a bit of text but it's actually just brief descriptions in 2 languages - we've exhibited in Wales before but it's still a treat to see your own words translated into Welsh!

Funny how scale in a photograph can play tricks on you - the crow painting illustrated on the left is about 30cms square whereas the enormous painted cherries quilt on the right is a couple of metres tall! Some visitors who have only seen the brochure may be surprised when they come face to face with the real things!

Painting a single cherry onto a tiny wooden panel last Sunday was a good deal quicker than painting these cherries which are as big as footballs!

These pages show 2 of Laura's painted quilts. The piece on the left is about a metre square if I remember correctly. The one on the right is 35 cms square. You have no idea of that from the picture do you? Sometimes the camera can deceive!

I've spent most of today in the studio, still working on the highly secret garments for the fashion show. I'm grateful there were no cameras to record it but I think you'd have been amused if you could have spied on me. I had 3 machines on the go pretty much all day. An overlocker, a sewing machine and an embroidery machine. I can set the embroidery machine to do it's own thing and be sewing either on the ordinary machine or the overlocker while it does. If the bleeper on the embroidery machine lets me know a thread colour needs changing or the bobbin has run out I can scoot across the room on my wheely office chair without even having to stand up. It's hardly aerobic exercise so why am I so exhausted at the end of the day?

Oh well, onwards and upwards! Talk to you soon - Linda

Monday 4 July 2011

Like minded!

Having spent quite a bit if time lately drawing and painting lovely generous peapods I was amazed to see how my old friend Marie Roper has been working with the same inspiration. I knew she was busy creating a piece to illustrate a poem for an exhibition being held during a literary festival in her local town but I had no idea of the subject. Her beautiful Peabrush figure can be seen at The Weavers Gallery in Ledbury. Herefordshire, UK, until this coming Sunday.

Isn't she simply exquisite? Just look at the peapods on the skirt and the delicate tendrils at the wrists. Quite incredible attention to detail. These dolls take as long as they take - Marie never compromises! The word doll seems completely inadequate.

Back down to earth, another embroidered bag gets finished finally. One more for the stand at Festival!

As ever there is a long list of things to do but sometimes a little break helps to recharge the batteries. As long as Laura is happy to stay here and hold the fort, a trip to visit my sister in southern France is just the answer! Apparently the temperatures touched 40C there last week - I'm hoping it will have cooled down a bit by the time we get there but a couple of loose cotton dresses should help. I ran this one up today and will probably make a second in a different colour if I can find some fabric at the Rag Market tomorrow.

Wouldn't it be great if we could alter our own measurements as easily as changing those of the mannequin? A couple of dials in strategic places would be very handy!

Thanks for visiting - Linda

Sunday 3 July 2011

Some of my favourite things

I can't think of many things I'd rather be doing on a sunny Sunday afternoon than sitting in the garden painting! Definitely two of my favourite things. Inspiration can come from simple things too.

Laura gave me these wooden panels because she loves to paint on them but I'd never tried them before today. They are a bit tricky to get the hang of but I love how they've turned out.

I gave each panel a couple of coats of white gesso and then painted the fruit and veg with artists' acrylics.

It was a good try out for some of the new paintbrushes I bought recently. They were a job lot and I never thought I'd use the really tiny ones but these panels are only 3 inches wide so I needed small brushes for the detail. The paintings will keep company with the quilted botanical drawings I finished recently for our stand at Festival of Quilts. I think it makes a display more interesting to see the same subject interpreted with different media and a change of scale.

I walked around the garden while the paint was drying and couldn't resist photographing this red cabbage. The colours are gorgeous and the bloom on the leaves makes them look almost like velvet. I've often painted cabbages over the years, usually in watercolour rather than acrylics. I'm not sure if they are everyone's idea of a suitable subject for a painting though. In the old days of cameras with film I got very strange looks from the processing people when everyone else was collecting photos of their holidays and their children and I had a whole film showing rows of cabbages!

The lilies are still looking fantastic although I must learn to admire them from a distance -  it has taken 3 washes to get the pollen from this beauty off a new top of mine! These flowers would make great subjects for a painting but I may be less predictable and go for a different kind of flower!!

I wonder if I can be quick enough to paint it before we want to eat it!

I hope you can enjoy small pleasures like me!

Bye for now,