Tuesday 30 August 2011

Busy doing nothing - it's a holiday after all!

It was a real pleasure to wander around the garden yesterday photographing some of the late  blooms. If I ever learn how to use the software I'm sure I'll be able to make a wonderful album for summer 2011!

I was looking for suitable subjects for watercolour painting. I just heard that I sold a couple of my Crow paintings in our exhibition down in Aberdare and when someone likes your work enough to want to give it a home it's such a confidence boost. Often when painting isn't going as well as I'd like I feel like giving up altogether but then someone pays the ultimate compliment of buying a piece and I want to start painting something new immediately! Funny how I'm always drawn to the hot colours like this Rudbeckia which is Cherry Brandy and the gorgeous sunflowers - this one's Earthwalker.

After a slow start the orange Cannas are looking spectacular too. Don't you just love those spikes? The petals are a little weather beaten but there are some really good shapes to draw!

The hot colours I love so much aren't only on the flowers. The blooms on this Rosa Rugosa are long gone but the hips are now a glorious russett.

Even the veg patch has flashes of my favourite scarlet!

We have masses of quiet pastel and white flowers in our garden too but, pretty as they are, in my opinion they can't compete. However, the gardener in our family tells me balance is everything. Even against a backdrop of green foliage, a garden wouldn't look right if all the flowers were red and orange just as a quilt or a painting would suffer from a similar absence of variety and contrast. I suppose I have to reluctantly agree - maybe he does understand something about design after all!

I'm off to paint  - talk to you again soon,

Sunday 28 August 2011

Holiday weekend

It's a bank holiday weekend here. That usually means bad weather and traffic jams! We had a family wedding to celebrate so we were hoping for sunshine - as you can see, although it wasn't good all day, we were lucky for the bride's arrival at the reception venue.

It was a very grand house set in glorious grounds. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the fantastic sphinx either side of the front door. Last week it was sphinx in Warwickshire and this week it's Shropshire! You don't see one for ages and all of a sudden six come along!

After being dressed up and on best behaviour for the wedding yesterday it's back to jeans and Tshirt at home today and nature is being generous. The trees in our orchard are groaning with fruit. There's been a bit of rain recently, the fruit is ready and ripe plums are starting to fall from the trees. I can't put it off any longer, it's like harvest festival here and I must make jam, crumble and spicy plum sauce!

I'd love to try and paint these plums - the blue bloom on the burgundy coloured skin is absolutely beautiful! I'd better get on with cooking though or I'll never deal with the fruit mountain. No prizes for knowing how I'll be spending my bank holiday!

Hope you're having a great weekend!
Talk again soon - Linda

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Day off for good behaviour!

Catherine leaves tomorrow - she's going home to Vancouver after almost a month here in England. We've worked so hard while she's been here we felt really guilty that we hadn't been very good hosts. Must be time for a day of culture, relaxation and enjoyment. Maybe a spot of lunch too!

Compton Verney in Warwickshire is a favourite place for all those things. A once grand house - it lay empty for many years but was rescued and now houses a wonderful art collection. Photography of the artwork in the house isn't allowed but you can see lots of images of the fabulous collections on the website www.comptonverney.org.uk

The parkland was designed by Capability Brown and many of his original drawings for this and other commissions were on show today.

The approach to the house crosses a beautiful stone bridge with a sphinx at each corner. The detail over each sphinx's back is lovely.

Artist in residence this summer, Laura Ellen Bacon is a willow weaver and her work is in evidence throughout the garden. The new willow walk needs time to mature but like children we couldn't resist walking through it!

A woven structure seems to grow out of the hollow in an ancient Yew tree.

This moving memorial to a little boy evokes a sense of ages past - he died in 1703 aged only four.

The gravestones lie flat on the ground - almost becoming part of the earth itself.

It was a beautiful day and hopefully a happy memory for Catherine to take back to Canada! Don't forget that you can click on any of the images to see more detail.

We'll be back at our desks again tomorrow - normal service will be resumed!

Talk to you soon - Linda

Wednesday 17 August 2011

More from Festival of Quilts

We're back home and last week already seems like a dream. Before I forget about Festival of Quilts until next year here are a few more photographs as promised.

The tent makers of Cairo were a real highlight of the show. Their intricate designs are worked entirely by hand.

The applique is worked with incredible speed and accuracy using what seemed to me to be enormous needles. It was fascinating to see the patterns produced by folding and pricking brown paper. With such undeniable skill it was no wonder almost every quilt was sold during the four days of the show.

I showed a page from Stephanie Redfern's winning mixed media entry in the Quilt Creations category in the last post but I love her birds so much I don't apologise for including another beautiful page today.

We were astonished at how many people accepted the challenge to make a name badge and present themselves at our stand to claim their free gift. The threads we had packed specially ran out on day 1! We have too many photographs to include everyone who turned up so here's just a selection of name badges and happy smiling faces! 

Many thanks to everyone who made the effort - hand made badges are certainly a friendly way to get everyone talking and we shall definitely do it again!

Finally, as we made the garments for the show, Laura's cat Spider loved to keep her company in her studio. The feathers we used to embellish the garments seem irresistible to her! There'll be bits of feather floating around both our houses for some time yet!

You can see more about the show on Edwina's, Stephanie's and Catherine's blogs - the links are at the top of this page.

Talk to you again soon - Linda

Monday 15 August 2011

More from Festival

Whew - where did last week go? Festival of Quilts this year was just a blur. When we weren't teaching or lecturing we were on the stand all the time. We were demonstrating free machine quilting and digital embroidery each day and our sketchbooks also attracted a lot of attention. Even when Laura wasn't actually there you could still see her on the screen in the background because we ran DMTV shows on a TV to give visitors an idea of what our videos are all about.

We launched our new range of lovely wooden quilt stands for the first time. They were an instant hit and we sold out of two of the sizes in just two days. Luckily we have them made very close to home so we were able to call for extra stock for the rest of the show. They have been added to our online store now so people will be able to buy them online whenever they need the perfect way to display a miniature quilt.

Laura, Maureen and Catherine all took turns to teach a class on the Husqvarna Viking stand again this year. It's amazing how much they pack into one hour!

Thursday night was Fashion Show night. Our creation for the Daywear category looks fine on the display mannequin.

Not so great on me! I may look as though I'm confident striding down the catwalk but it's just an act!

Laura modelled the Art to Wear ensemble - you can see it here in the Fashion sans Frontieres exhibit the morning after the catwalk show. On the night, she carried the birdcage and key ring in her hands but here they've displayed them like a major necklace!

The hand drawn swallow looked really beautiful on the apron. Laura used Derwent Inktense pencils for the drawing and applied a wash of fabric medium to seal the image and make it permanent.

We were really pleased with the shape of the cropped jacket, especially the curve of the back. Several people asked if we could sell them the pattern but we had to confess we'd kind of made it up as we went along! The yoke of the skirt was made with eight shaped panels and was digitally embroidered with stars. We worked them in cream on cream for a discreet effect where the lustre of the Madeira rayon threads against the matte surface of the fabric caught the light in a really beautiful way.

I've hardly begun to mention the exhibits on display and this is the real reason for the show after all! We have lots of photos - too many to include in this post but one of my favourites has to be a Crow page from Stephanie Redfern's entry in the Quilt Creations category. You can link to Stephanie's blog to see more of her work and a smiling picture of her standing beside her winning book!

Laura and I would like to thank everyone who came to see us during the show. It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many of our DMTV subscribers and students. And we were quite overwhelmed with the response to our badge challenge!! Thank you, thank you! It's great when we suggest something and you run with it even at such short notice! It was a real ice breaker to have friendly name badges - I hope you think so too. We heard some people got talking to complete strangers at the airport just because they were wearing hand made name badges!

For those who couldn't make it to the show I hope that's given you a flavour of what Festival was like for us this year but I will post a few more images in a day or two.

Bye for now,

Friday 12 August 2011

Having a great show so far!

Yesterday was just about the busiest day we've ever had since we started DesignMatters ten years ago. After setting up the stand at Festival of Quilts on Wednesday we went home really weary but we returned bright and early on Thursday morning to check if all our goodies looked as tempting as we remembered from the night before! It's always amazing to see how you can transform an empty space with a van load of fabrics, threads, books and quilts! Here you can see Laura and I putting a few finishing touches to the stand before the doors were opened.

We were soon surrounded by eager visitors to the show. Laura was booked to deliver the first teaching session of the day and so she disappeared off to the Husqvarna stand. Her class was sold out and we heard everyone enjoyed themselves. After the class finished she had hardly been back on our stand for any time at all when the two of us had to run up to the first floor where the seminar suites are. We gave a lecture called With Hand and Heart to a pleasingly large and attentive audience. As soon as that was over there was no time to relax because we needed to rush over to the Hilton Hotel for rehearsals for the evening fashion show.

The hair and make up ladies worked tirelessly to make us look our best! Here I am having major work including false eyelashes complete with feathered tips. You can see a glimpse of my Daywear dress and waistcoat with quilted collar and a feathered pin.

Laura's makeover was even more dramatic - I'm used to seeing her in jeans, T-shirts and trainers so I scarcely recognised this vision of glamour!

From the expressions on her face it seems my sister Maureen was also surprised by Laura's new hairdo!

We'd been working in isolation for weeks so we were understandably curious to see what the rest of the designers had created for the show. We weren't disappointed. There were some extraordinary garments!

Teams from three countries were involved in the competition, Russia, Ireland and the UK. Some were having a wonderful time getting dressed and made up whilst others were as nervous as I was but Laura rose to the occasion and loved the atmosphere, the lights, the music and the big screens!

This was our outfit for the evening dress category - a full length dress with five layers of airbrushed organza and chiffon topped with a quilted boddice and cropped, quilted jacket. She's carrying the accessory, a quilted and digitally embroidered bag made from the same old quilt as the dress and jacket.

We have lots of pictures of the other outfits we made but it's been a long day and since tomorrow promises to be just as busy I'm off to bed now. It's been great to meet so many of you at festival this year but if you can't get there to see us in person I'll make sure to post more pictures very soon!

Thanks for visiting - Linda

Monday 8 August 2011

Off to the Cynon Valley Museum!

It was wonderful to go down to Aberdare to see our exhibition for the first time on Friday.

The work looked better than we could have hoped - Belinda and the rest of the gallery staff had done a fantastic job with the hanging. People soon began to arrive - they had pre-booked for the day and many had come from quite a distance. Here's Laura chatting with some early visitors.

Our quilts, sketchbooks and paintings are displayed over two floors so we took turns in each of the galleries. We really enjoyed telling the stories behind our quilts and answering questions during the guided talks we gave throughout the day.

We all enjoyed a lovely buffet lunch before resuming the talks. Here I'm explaining the image transfer techniques I used for the pomegranate and pear quilts in the Goblin Market series.

Holiday traffic held us up on the return journey so we were very tired when we eventually got home. Tired but happy with the day. Now of course there's no time for relaxation. The final preparations are well in hand for Festival of Quilts, just as well really as we only have one day before we set up! The van is hired and most of our stuff is already packed in crates and boxes. The rest of the week will be a bit of a blur but hopefully lots of you will be able to come and say hello to us on stand E38. For anyone who won't be able to visit us we'll try hard to take lots of photos to post next week.

Talk to you again soon - Linda

Friday 5 August 2011

Great day in the sticks!

We have our friend Catherine visiting from Vancouver right now and, as yesterday was her birthday, we wanted to treat her to a typically English day out. The Burwarton Show is an agricultural event held annually in Shropshire and it attracts thousands of visitors from miles around. Sadly, after weeks of almost drought conditions we woke to steady drizzle. Catherine lives in the rain forest and couldn't understand why we were so disappointed at the weather. Undaunted we set out determined that the rain would not dampen our spirits.

One of the highlights of the show is the produce tent where local gardeners compete for best flowers and vegetables. Catherine insisted I appeared in this shot - how else would anyone know just how enormous those cabbages were!

The carrots were also pretty impressive - can you believe how long those things are? Way more than a metre!

Of course the livestock competitions are the main attraction. There were some beautiful beasts including these long horn cattle. Huge but so docile!

Who would have thought there were so many different kinds of sheep - it's all highly competitive and serious when they enter the judging ring! The winners in this category will shortly be awarded their rosettes and wear them proudly for the rest of day. A few minutes later we saw fleeces being transformed into fine yarns by members of the local spinners group. Catherine was brave enough to have a go and produced a pretty good length of yarn for a beginner!

Some of the exhibits are more unusual - we were told by their owner that these young Alpaca tolerate heat and cold but hate rain. Oh dear - definitely not a good day for them, look how bedraggled they are!

If I could have chosen one special creature to come home with me it would probably have been this little fellow. He looked very relaxed on his folding chair! The owls were mostly rescue birds and the owner clearly adored them all.

After a fun day out yesterday we were out on the road again today. This time off to Wales to give informal gallery talks about the work in our exhibition 'With Hand and Heart' at the Cynon Valley Museum. It was lovely to meet so many visitors! Thank you so much for taking the time to travel to the show - we appreciate your support. Wasn't the welcome from the gallery staff wonderful? And what about the lunch they laid on? I'd be happy to drive that far again just for the chocolate cake!

The exhibition runs until September 10th so there's still lots of time to get there if you're in that neck of the woods.

It's late now and we're weary after our long day - I'll post pictures of the exhibition tomorrow once I've caught up with some sleep.

Bye for now - Linda