Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year : New Blog - an invitation to view

In June 2010, I was engaged professionally to write a monthly on-line newsletter for the long-established seed company, Dobies of Devon, for 'keen and dedicated gardeners'. Last month, I was asked to extend what I have been doing and write a weekly blog as well, covering a mix of gardening topics, along with recipes from my Cotswold kitchen, inspirational gardens to visit, book reviews, and much else. I am really excited about all this, for they are such a lovely, friendly company to work with, and this new blog will in no way be a 'hard sell'. Other team members will be contributing as well, so it should be a fascinating mix of topics and information.

The 'Dobies of Devon Gardening Companion' went 'live' for the first time this morning; please click on the link - it would be wonderful if you would leave a comment.  The layout isn't perfect yet; it's the first time I've contributed to a team blog, so their may be unintentional hiccups at my end. And if you'd like to learn more about the company itself and what they offer, please click here - you can also access my newsletter ('a helping hand' lower left of screen on the Dobies website).

creating a new bit of garden for two of the grandchildren, nearly seven years ago

I am passionate about so many things, and one is to pass on  to future generations the joy of gardening, wildlife, food, history, literature, and creating with ones hands. And, in case you are wondering: no, I haven't been asked to promulgate this new blog; I just truly love what I do and want to share it with others.

A very happy new year to all 'bloggers' and all the best for 2011.

(P.S. I have already started a journal associated with this new blog: that will be shared, too)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve word-whisper

Delivering local Christmas cards around the village late yesterday afternoon, I was captivated by the quiet, the solitude, and everywhere as I walked 'the loop', so much beauty. As always when I am alone, words sprang into my mind; jotted down on an old envelope - I'd forgotten a notebook, a word-whisper just happened. The top photo, along the high road, will be used in a fabric book that I have 'on the go', as will the words; these and other word-spills accompanied by photos collected both this winter and last. Layouts will follow, sitting at my art-cum-writing desk overlooking the village green, then selection of fabrics from the mountain I have been collecting, and then image transfers and stitching. My 'winter observed' will become a keepsake by which I will remember all the blogging friends who so inspire whatever I do.

Christmas Greetings, much love, and all the very best for 2011.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Left-Right, Left-Right

Yesterday, I made a discovery about my own 'creativity'. Having struggled to express myself visually - and in my current determination to think visually before words, I unconsciously picked up a watercolour pen and began sketching these play-birds. Nothing unusual in that, except that without thinking, I picked up the pen in my LEFT hand, though I am actually right-handed. I quite liked the quirky creatures, could write about them, was unconcerned that they were not 'proper' sketches. Did it matter? Not at all, for actually, as I played, it felt as if my brain was being washed out, made new. That the tired old cells that had been struggling all day to complete a written thesis was behind me. I did not need to think, or plan. (I plan even when producing a visual page. It's not that I can't be spontaneous, it's just that pre-planning is part of what I always do.)

So upstairs at my 'writing' desk, I picked up water-colour crayons, again with my 'other' hand, then sprayed the images with water and left them overnight to dry. Tonight, I wanted to make notes. "I'll write left-handed," I decided. "Why not? Both hands are used when I'm TYPING; I don't give a thought to which is which."

Again, tonight, that sense of release. This is no laughing matter - though the images may be laughable. This is something I want to explore - somewhere I have a book on left-brain/right-brain creativity, but I am more interested in this sudden freedom from tiredness. I guess it probably has more to do with me thinking "this does not have to be perfect". I loved trying to control the pen and making the notes in joined-up writing. What I'd like to know, is whether anyone else finds an escape in using their non-dominant hand. Curiously, I was not frustrated in not being able to scribble instant notes. And why did I unconsciously pick up the paint-stick in the way I did? At least I have some 'journal-fodder' to paste in my 'junk-journaling' folder!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Triggering Words

I cannot show you what triggered these words. for it is now too dark to take a photograph. I have not journaled, properly, for nearly a month - have been downsizing, de-cluttering, jotting down so many ideas for what is to be, whilst writing endless proposals connected with work, and suffering the lack of any heat in this old house - that's quite another story!

I jump back almost a year, and the wonderful book written by Tracie Lyn Huskamp entitled 'Nature Inspired'. I planned a seasonal fabric book, collected such fabrics, wrote poems, took photos; and then the summer came and reminiscing about glittering cold is not the same during those hot, herbal-scented days; and anyway we were on our working travels. I continued to collect antique fabrics, old lace, and lush ribbons, have them stashed away for THIS winter.

OK, I know what I want to do and have a collection of 'stuff' large enough to create at least a hundred little concertina books. Come today, in town, dawdling because I was awaiting various phone calls on my mobile about the non-defunct boiler, and - well, I called in upon my favourite Banbury fabric shop. I fall in love with a deep green tulle-like diaphanous fabric encrusted with tiny stars. The day is frosty, still, cold and it's wonderful to be striding around town thinking textile art. Back home this evening, I can see the glittery words image-transferred onto a starlit page. It's forecast to get colder, and what better time to start cutting and stitching. So sorry this is all words - (I even bought a minimum-maximum thermometer today to record the temperatures in this old, old house so full of images and memories). 

I cannot end with words alone! This photo has nothing to do with stars or fabric but is a page in progress from my new 'junk journaling' experimental book. The colours are nothing like this - the pic was taken by candlelight because the bulbs over my work desk blew and all was dark. Pages are a collage of entries from an old magazine publishing directory, ripped and stuck down every-which-way, then washed with watercolour in vandyke brown and indigo, much diluted. The picture is taken from a flyer for a local art gallery (I will acknowledge the artist when I have finished the collage). The colours perfectly match those of my watercolour wash but the card on which it is printed is far too stiff, so I have been peeling apart the layers. My pages are called 'Deconstruction' and the accompanying words, already written, will be hand-lettered. My theme is that I cannot afford to buy these works of art, but can promulgate other artists' work by adding them - acknowledged - to my book.

This is meant to be a 'journal in odd moments' book. But although I write spontaneously, I like to plan my layouts, and there's the rub ... But if you read my other blog and the post on Downsizing, you will see the cluttered desk which is now sorted and multi-tasking; work when I must, and play when I cannot bear to be without some other form of creativity.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Nature Enlarged

Despite the fact I blogged last night about my 'nature trail' concertina booklet - bragging perhaps because for once I actually finished a project rather than just talking/writing/experimenting - I decided this morning to photograph each 'spread' in close up. So the imperfections and stitchery could be seen in detail.

Now I did not properly explain: this piece is one of a number I was rushing to photograph and write about for an article to appear next month on creating gardening journals, which I augmented somewhat to include 'nature'. For when I came to re-read all my written journals over the years, I realised that what I wrote about more than anything else was natural history, which has absorbed and captivated me ever since childhood.

But this creation was a rush job - none of my usual dithering ("should I do this, or that, or perhaps delve into other techniques?"). No, I had to make, finish, photograph and write about not just this but half-a-dozen other creations as well. So no page is as perfect as I would wish, but I do hug myself that for once there something is finished. All my creative journeys have been like those of my childhood, on wobbly footsteps, or walking on my hands around a swimming pool, always biting off more than I can chew (though I did manage that feat); or as my school report once said - almost 70 years ago, "Ann could do better."  Well, Ann is still striving to meet whatever was expected of her then, and now.

My apologies for the ennui that may be induced by an almost duplicate post. I thank Toni and Yvonne for their kind comments to date (as of 20.00 UK GMT). And to answer Yvonne's query as to whether this concertina booklet has a closure of sorts - not yet, I am dashing to get the photos off to the magazine editor tomorrow, of this and other artifacts. But now you come to mention it, I think two narrow calico straps could be fastened to the two outside edges, and wound around as a tie ... easy to release. Like the one below - my concertina fabric herbal; and maybe also, a little bag to hold each 'trail'.

You see, the idea of concertina journals made from old, altered maps seemed so easy; to have a series of them in my travel bag, ready to depart at a moment's notice. Each distressed and sprayed with various colours to suit all manner of places, themes and situations.

A bag-holder and strap for each one, perhaps, to hang around my neck, with pen for sketching and scribbling ... leaving space for the photos I take along the way. Now: each map makes three such journals (each of eight pages); and as I have amassed around 30 of these antiques - the shop was selling them off cheap - that's an awful lot of journals; and I have so many other things up my sleeve .........

P.S. You can still click on each image and enlarge it even more ... I love the way the scrim becomes almost tactile; must see what happens when I slather it with diluted acrylic paint.

Monday, 1 November 2010

'Nature Trail'

Nearly two months ago, I wrote about the magical workshop day I spent tutored by Rachel Anne Cronin (see 5th September). At last, I have completed something using the techniques to which Rachel introduced us. Nothing as I had imagined; indeed I cut up both the image transfer and the fabric-print made from my own carved stamp and turned it into something quite different! But isn't that what workshops are all about? A stepping stone to someplace else. In my case a concertina booklet created from an old map bought recently in a local antique shop (map £2.00).

I began by ripping a canvas-backed map into sections, and used just one concertina section. I distressed the map by painting it with diluted acrylic paint (child's 99p type) to slightly obscure the map so it was barely recognisable. I sprayed it with diluted walnut ink to 'age' it - even though this particular map was already around 70 years old. I cannot think what I intended this to be, but the idea of a 'nature trail' emerged; a sort-of diary using images and words for which the map analogy seemed appropriate. At this point, I covered the rear (canvas) side of the map with calico, to which I had stitched a portion of the image transfer and carved-leaf print from the workshop for the front and back covers. The title was stitched free-form on my sewing machine.

Now to add images and words onto the map (click on the image if you want to view it at close quarters):

Nearly all of my work is experimental, and this was no exception. I used paper table-napkin motifs, fused onto cheesecloth, and then onto the map with matte gel medium (first three 'pages'). The next three pages comprised scans from my various travel journals - sketches or actual reduced pages, printed onto 45gsm layout paper, fused onto cheesecloth and stitched around to frame the images. The final spread (two pages) utilised the same technique but incorporated photo prints - again on the layout paper. So, a variety of image sources but melded together by the use of the fragile cheesecloth; enmeshed as you might say. I always like to use some unifying object within my work to marry the various divers objects. In this case, it was the cheesecloth; and as I have a 50 metre bolt of it, it is likely to feature in many of my forthcoming projects!

And so to the final stage: words. My journals invariably start with words; they are the catalyst for whatever I create. Only recently have I begun to first think visually rather than verbally; turning my creative world topsy-turvy. This little concertina 'nature trail' is a poor reflection of what a true artist would achieve; but for once left-brain overtook right-brain (or was it the other way round? - I can never remember), and I was never sure whether the pen I used would take to the distressed surface or sink without trace. Checking this post in 'preview', I realise that none of the detail is visible, which may be the   fault of poor camera technique (I'm struggling with a beautiful new camera) but more probably that I should have photographed the concertina spread by spread. You live and learn; and the older I become, the steeper my learning curve!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Words added

trial page that is far from perfect - in every sense!

Onto one of my experimental napkin-pages from earlier in the week I have added impromptu words. Nothing special, just as they fell into my head; just to see how the white pen worked over the acrylic wax. It's apt to become less vibrant as it dries; I had to over-write the letters two or three times and under electric light and without my 'strong' specs, the positioning is somewhat hit and miss. Indeed the layout is all wrong too - too heavy at the top (but I love that sunflower), and a tiddly, paltry pumpkin at the bottom.

It was never intended to be a finished journal page - in fact all my experimental pages and trials appear at the back of my visual journal, with notes as to what I did and the results. It is important for me to see my failures, for they remind me of what not to do. I now need to add the poem-spills to the planned layout in the more presentable front of the book, but have developed overnight a stinking cold and have decided to read one o my birthday art books instead of making art. Too many failed pages would be depressing.

Instead, I will close with a photo I took yesterday of one of my favourite herbs - borage - because the flowers are such a fantastic blue. I want to experiment (that word again) with images transfers and free-form  thread-stitching. But I know that if I try that today feeling so full of cold, I will do something stupid with the machine. And anyway, I first have to add my poem-spills to the 'proper' napkin pages.

a shaken macro shot of borage (I should have used a tripod)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Still experimenting!

My first dark-background experiment: single layer napkin image applied using acrylic wax; the result is quite textural, but the sunflower merges into the background under certain lighting conditions and you can't recognise the pumpkin at all!

Apart from the usual early Autumn chores, and work deadlines, I've been playing some more with colour-spill pages and different ways of applying napkin-tissue images. (The napkins I use are those good-quality ones that comprise three flimsy layers.) It worked well when I had a fairly light background (last post) , but not so well when I used a dark, vibrant one. 

This was my starting point, immediately after buying the sunflower napkins (the sight of which prompted a poem-spill which will go on the page once I settle on my preferred method of applying the image).

I've now tried six different methods for applying a bright yellow sunflower over a dark blue background: heat-n-bond (fusible web); backed with masking tape with gel medium for the adhesive; using acrylic wax to apply a single and double layer - just the image layer for single and the top two layers for double. But the one I think produces the best results, so that some of the background page colour still shines through the tissue image, would just happen of course to be the most time-consuming and the most complicated!

Not the same page as above; this was a trial at the back of my visual journal. Method as described below. You can see one of the sunflower images top right, and a pumpkin lower left, which also stimulated a 'poem-spill'.

I cut out all three layers of the napkin images I want to use and apply the bottom white tissue layer to the journal page using acrylic wax. Once dry, I paint over the ghostly shape of the image with white tempera paint (a bit like gesso but far, far cheaper). 

A close up which demonstrates better than my words exactly what I am talking about.

I let the gesso (white paint) dry, and then apply the actual image over the top, again using acrylic wax. I've tried it two ways, using just the top image layer, and also the top and middle layer. Still not sure what I like best!

Final experiment (for tonight): motifs applied with wax over the painted images; single layer left, double layer right. The double layer has a lovely texture but needs extra waxing to help the layers to meld; the wax soaks into the tissue though acts as a very good adhesive. 

I think I prefer the right hand result. It's hard to tell for a) the background here is a different blue and the red (for the pumpkins is too dominant, and b) it's difficult to compare all the photos for they have been taken throughout the day in different light conditions - this last under electric light - but not flash which renders the colours somewhat blatant. I now have numerous examples of these deep-coloured pages in my visual journal - sunflowers, pumpkins, apples, pears and hedgerow fruit - and still cannot guarantee what result I will achieve. But then I suppose that's what art is all about; you never know whether you will achieve a state of serendipity or want to tear the whole thing up! Now I need to add the poem-spills that prompted these trials in the first place; white pen, as soon as the wax is fully dry and firm.

Oh, and do let me know if the 'you might also like' is irritating. I added the facility, thinking I would be able to select earlier related posts, and did not realise that the suggestions are beyond my control. Maybe I'll remove the gadget.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Journaling at Malvern, plus purchases

It is so cosy playing with journal pages in our motorhome cab - I just love my mini-studio, but it's not so good for taking photos as all is on a skew. Above is the first of three 'spreads' coloured with acrylic inks and with paper-napkin motifs waxed into place. The title text has been stencilled and all that is now needed are the words which will be added when the acrylic wax has fully dried and the surface is suitably hardened. Double click on the image to see it as full size. I meanwhile will cut out motifs for the other two spreads: apples, pears and a few more vegetables. This Show really was all about a 'harvest in the hills', though today you might have been forgiven or thinking it was a gigantic car-boot sale!

It worked to my advantage however, for I browsed along with all the rest of the crowd and am so pleased with what I consider to be astute purchases. The first: one of those dangly metal windcharms - I loved the bird shape; if I remove just one, it will act as positive or negative stencil or a pattern from which I can cut paper or fabric birds for all manner of projects.

Next to a stall selling necklaces - which I never wear; indeed I buy them only to take them apart for the beads. I'm a sucker for doing this and either purchase for a specific project, or on spec in case I never see the like again. These today incorporated flat wooden discs, perfect for a natural history or seashore project, depending on which colour I use, interspersed with large marble-like globular beads that will be just right for the dangly crocheted chains I make for my paper or fabric books. Nothing will be wasted, for the rest of the necklaces - chord and clasps - will also be recycled. I've photographed them over the journal pages to give an idea of their chunkiness and size. I have a much wider collection of beads of all shapes, colours and sizes by buying this way - and it's far cheaper than selecting little packets and jars in the craft shops. I do stick to natural materials though - wood, horn, metal, shell or glass.

And now to the strangest purchase and one I may come to regret. I hovered repeatedly (sorry for the pun) over a silk moth stall, captivated by the insects' beauty and by the fact that the larvae are not harmed when unravelling the silk cocoons. Yesterday, I came away with an information pack: literature on the types of moth, the resultant silk, what they eat, actual samples of two kinds of moth, silk and a cocoon. Making silk paper (in small quantities) for textile projects must be a great adventure I thought. Today - now what have I done - I bought two containers of live silk worms! One type feeds on hawthorn, the other on privet. The only snag, well maybe just the first of many snags as yet to be discovered, is whether they will spin their cocoons and hibernate before leaf drop and their food supply ceases to exist. 

I am assured they will. I am also assured that they will not migrate around the house! Time will tell, and I must chart my progress, or rather the worms' progress, for I feel duty bound not to let them die. It's 65 years since I first kept silk worms (the mulberry-leaf-eating sort which we school children were told could survive on lettuce instead). I'd never seen a mulberry tree and being during the second world war, I ran out of lettuce .... or perhaps my mother thought our food needs were greater than those of the worms! I know they never reached maturity. One thing for certain, it's going to take an awful lots of cocoons to make a tiny bit of silk paper .....

Friday, 24 September 2010

On the move

two pages from my 'travel spill' journal

Dear Reader, first I must explain my journaling blog for those who may be mystified at my hopping from one project to another, or appearing to do so. Looking back, I find I tend to post the start of a project and then maybe a stage or stages during its progress. This does not mean I never finish anything; usually what I am doing is connected to some travel article or garden magazine feature, or just pure playing. And I also tend to post my experimental work and explanations of the processes involved. If I didn't, I would never remember what I had done when I return to complete what may have been begun weeks or even months before.

Or I run out of time blog about what I am working on. Right now, I have time to spare (magic) and am sitting on the Malvern Showground ahead of the opening tomorrow. I have my mini-studio set up in the motorhome cab. I have pruned my required supplies down to the minimum but find it is essential to prep papers or fabric in advance of coming away. I cannot slather acrylic inks or paints in so tiny a space; well it's not actually the space but the fear of getting paint on the upholstery!

I have two forms of travel journal now: one is planned and structured and has to be finished at home for we do not always take the printer away with us; it depends where we are going and the nature of the journey. The other - my travel spilling journal - is a hotch-potch of play-as-you-go pages. If they go wrong, it doesn't matter. I have just posted a pic on my wild child blog of the page prepared last night before coming away - it's at the end of the Back to Malvern post and is in autumnal colours to suit the seasonal nature of the 'Celebration of Nature's Harvest', which is why we are here.

The photo above on this blog started as a colour slathering and was completed exactly a week ago when we were down in Dorset. I think if you double-click on the picture, you can see it full-size. I always bemoan the fact that when I am away, I never manage to work on a travel diary, but this way - travel spilling - works so well; it only takes a relatively short amount of time; and the travel-journal-proper awaits the planned layout and photos on our return. I have to say that the idea for journal-spilling is not mine; I was given a brilliant book by Diana Trout on the subject by my dear friend, Kristin Steiner. Her gift has unlocked my fear of playing; previously, my travel diaries were all words and occasionally a few poor sketches.

More travel-spill pages to follow but my laptop needs charging ....

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A new dimension

I've never done anything like this before - carving a lino block and then printing it on fabric I had coloured myself

Yesterday came like a breath of fresh air - a day in between travelling when I could forget schedules and play. I attended another workshop; it was more than play, it was a revelation and added a new dimension to my creative endeavours. Tutored by the gifted Rachel Anne Cronin, the theme was 'Making Sketchbook Techniques'. It was so well structured, planned so that materials could be drying whilst we got on with something else. I learned so much that I can now incorporate into what I do already - in fact more than one new dimension.

Book cover number one: left (back cover), right (front cover with image transfer); the back cover is hand-painted over the furnishing fabric and  now awaits stitching and embellishing. It will be backed by the 'green leaf' printed fabric below which I also made in the workshop yesterday.

We added image transfers to plain and printed fabric, experimenting with gel medium which gave a much better result than the method I had previously been using. We used decorator's acrylic primer to 'gesso' the surrounding fabric (much cheaper than gesso) and then - for me - the two highlights of the day: first colouring plain polycotton in shades to complement our chosen theme, for which I used thinned down acrylic paint with splashes of acrylic ink, screwing up the wet fabric to amalgamate teh colours; then secondly cutting lino blocks (we used 'Easy Cut' which is so much easier than the hard stuff I used back in school) and then overprinted the by-now-dry and coloured polycotton using not sticky printing inks but acrylic paint. Magic (well it was for me).

A close-up of part of the green-leaf print I made from the leaf block I carved.

The image transfered fabric piece, once embellished, will become the outside cover, whilst the backing will be the decorated polycotton, the two fused together and edge stitched. I prepared two covers and two linings. Then papers of various sorts, or other transferred and decorated pieces, will be hand-stitched into the covers to complete my books. I came home full of ideas for incorporating what I had practised into my many mixed-media projects; now to create the time to do so! Have a look at Rachel's blog on for inspiration and some of her own finished covers.

My second book cover created from an image transfer for the front, and badly painted topiary trees for the back. This needs a lot doing to it to embellish it! It will be backed by the 'pink' more Autumnal leaf fabric as shown in the first picture.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Squeezing time

I can sneak into my laundry room to my new mini-workstation and indulge in a little 'play'

Despite a non-stop and overloaded freelance work schedule that I would never have imagined would come my way, I have discovered how to squeeze time ... nothing new there I am sure, but it has been a revelation for me, brought up to think that whilst there was 'work' to be done, one should not 'play'. And, because anything creative that I do is still considered 'play', I feel guilty. But squeezing time has become achievable because I have set up mini-workstations in my laundry room; not expensive either; just utilising my existing storage boxes which hold fabric and equipment. They can be shunted around to reach shelves and storage cupboards, or the laundry equipment, but what I have also done is to position small cork-surfaces notice boards on top and behind. I work on the horizontal board and pin ideas and notes to the vertical one (you can see the experiments about which I last posted). The cork surface is brilliant for it means I can pin down what I am working upon. Best of all, I can sneak in there whilst the potatoes are cooking, or whilst I wait for the washing cycle to end. So much easier than my workspace in the attic, though I still use the big table up there for paint slathering.

Click on this image to see it at a larger size; it shows the individual tag book pages before they are hinged together, plus my working notes

And so to what I have been working upon ('Remains') since I posted my poor initial experiments three weeks ago. No matter what I am creating, I never jump straight in, if it involves new materials or techniques. I make samples, and note what I have done, for otherwise I forget how a particular effect was obtained. The catalyst for this piece was a prompt by my dear friend Kristi (I refer to her in my notes as 'KS') - Kristin Steiner of North Carolina, who came to stay last month and showed me all manner of exciting ideas for tag books and other things. So my trials turned into a repurposed piece, everything assembled from bits and pieces that would otherwise have been discarded - hence 'remains' as the title.

The corkboard is perfect for pinning down the tag book pages: here I am attaching muslin hinges to join the pages together (kitchen weights also come in handy, too!)

I have almost finished assembling the individual 'pages', hinged with dyed muslin, and will post a photo of the finished tag book once the acrylic wax has dried and I can stand it upright. Meanwhile, when I'm not standing at my mini work-bench, I am deep into tiny fabric books and visual art-journals of one kind and another - all such a blessed release from the daily words, words, words without which I could not afford to indulge in my paper and textile madness.

Monday, 9 August 2010


practising: a poor scan of an experimental piece described below (but click on the photo and you will see an enlarged version in more detail than is shown here)

It's been an age since I blogged - everything has gone haywire for the last month, but I have at least spent every odd moment splattering paint or sewing, ever since the delicious workshop about which I posted at the beginning of July. In between all that, my dear friend Kristin Steiner from North Carolina came to visit for a couple of days this last week after teaching at 'OSS' - Oxford Summer School. She brought me such treats to play with and suggested I made a tag book out of the card separators from an old wine box; you know, the sort you find if you buy a box of six bottles. Buying wine in quantity is outside our financial limit these days, but I ripped out the dividers from the beer box Kristi's husband (Bill) bought us - we drank the four bottles, one apiece.

My tag book is to be called 'Remains' because it uses re-purposed materials. The tags are painted and sprayed as Kristi instructed, but - being me - I wanted to experiment with what I would stick on the pages (sorry Kristi, they are nothing so special as your examples). The pic above is a scan of my mounted experiments. Basically using gesso or emulsion paint as a base, stained with glimmer mist in delectable colours. Words are my version of creating words on fabric - computer manipulation printed onto 'Cool Peel' and ironed onto muslin with additional text overlaid in Photoshop.

Other background text is created using a text-stamp on napkin tissue: the white background becomes transparent when using acrylic wax as an adhesive. The wax also gives a lovely velvety finish and melds everything together, including dyed muslin. My scan is poor, but now that I have experimented and sampled to my own satisfaction, I can complete the actual tag book. One of the experiments (the top panel, using a glimmer mist called Raven that I discovered in a London shop on Saturday was the catalyst for one of my silly instant poetry moments. The experiment went wrong - so relieved it wasn't the finished piece! - and the words flowed as much as the ink had a few moments before.

I'll be working on the actual tag book tomorrow, adding napkin illustrations and hingeing the book with muslin - thankyou Kristi for introducing me to so many exciting techniques in the two short days you were with us. As for the previous project from Annette Emms' marvellous workshop; my sampling also turning into a fabric concertina book, and all the pieces are also positioned for the finished book-in-a-box. I have surprised myself actually with just how many minutes I have been able to 'play' when I should have been a) cleaning the house, b) reclaiming the garden, or c) working - but then I have a really exciting new project up my sleeve and it involves all that I have been playing around with for the last few months. 

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A blissful day

My half-finished 'Summer Days' box destined to hold a concertina fabric book

Yesterday was one of such joy - to be playing with fabrics and paper again at the most wonderful workshop organised by our local Embroiderers' Guild was absolute bliss. It was doubly special for me, because it was being tutored by Annette Emms, whose blog 'Fairy Shoes & Other Things' is so enjoyable and one I love to follow. 

I learned so much in so short a time. The class was excellent; really well structured and leading us through many, many possibilities. We were introduced to various methods of image transfer (so much more subtle than my 'cool-peel' technique), and shown Annette's amazing concertina fabric books - each one of six pages filled with themed images and words and then embellished with stitching by hand and machine, snippets of this and that, little hand-made picture frames and pockets .....  One day was not enough! But we also completed a little box to house the book - just think of a library of these arranged on a shelf, ready to take down and read remembrances of travels or gardens or history.

I wrote this whilst eating lunch during the workshop, sitting outside in the hot sunshine

Now I have to practise - now I have to complete my own first book, which was to have been a herbal but instead became (or will become) one of celebrating 'summer days' which fell into my head only a few days before the workshop.

this became the theme for my first concertina book

Best of all, I now know how to transfer the images of all the musical stone angels I photographed in Tewkesbury Abbey a while back ready for the fabric book I planned on 'Heaven & Earth'.

one of the Tewkesbury Abbey angels I photographed last September, awaiting the technique to be able to transfer her (or was it him?) into a fabric book

I am supposed to be weeding the vegetable plot today; I think I will play instead! And thankyou, Annette,  for such an inspiring day.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Irish Rhapsody: work in progress

the drawing office where plans for the Titanic were created - the room is now all but derelict and has been out of use for 22 years (it is not open to the public)

I mentioned in my last post that I was prepping loose-leaf pages to facilitate the creation of travel journeys 'on-the-go'. Mine were all ready for our departure to Ireland last Saturday - 300gsm watercolour paper dyed, splattered and edged with summery flowers on napkins. I did not have the time to scan or photograph the pages but had already started to stitch around the maps I was going to use (the first map was shown in my 'Wild Somerset Child' blog of last week. Since then, I have stitched around the other maps I intend to use at every opportunity, but our journalist press trip to Ireland has been non-stop for seven days, from 8.30 until 11.00 or so at night.

peeling paint in the room above will make a good page background for a fabric book

I have had time to word-paint on the coach (by word-paint, I mean record my thoughts and observations in blank verse) and some of these have been hand-written onto scraps of paper, and stitched around already. Assembly will have to come when we are back home. I have changed my idea of the nature of the Irish journal, not so much a diary, more an illustrated thought journal of episodes and places that inspired me to word-paint - work notes are needed for commissioned magazine features, and my Irish Rhapsody paper/fabric creation is pure pleasure. 


As my husband was taking all the photos needed for my articles, I concentrated on textures, colours and shapes, not just to appear in the journal but as page backgrounds transferred onto fabric for other word-books. A place that captured my imagination only yesterday was at the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast where the tragic Titanic was built and launched. We were privileged to be shown into the drawing office where the ship was designed in the early 1900s - the room itself has not been used for 22 years and all is musty and decaying. 

and so will this

I just loved the poignancy of these peeling walls and spent time recording these, and taking photos of old postcards that will also go into my journal. I think this idea of decay and regeneration (the shipyard is to house a new visitor centre) is one that I could use for other projects. So I have all my word-painting ready for text panels, I have my pages prepped and photos are also taken and sized. Now everything needs assembling ....

what began in the drawing office above, sadly ended at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

Thursday, 27 May 2010

More experimenting

small handmade journal (6in x 4in) showing front and back covers 
(front, right and back, left)

Last night I posted a picture of my latest experiment on my gardening blog - simply because it had to do with the journal I had been making whilst we were visiting the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. But the journal was more significant than its content or the location where it was being made, and as few bloggers will yet know of my embryonic venture into blog gardening, this is the place for explaining my latest experimentation.

I have been working on methods for more easily creating travel journals when we are away using the minimum of materials that can quickly be packed into the confines of our motorhome. As we are always working when we are away, the journals have to be something I can dip into whenever I have the time. Usually, I write far too much text - in a blank travel diary - and it ever gets transferred. In other words, I begin, and do a few pages, but never catch up with myself. And so in my roof space, I have a collection of jute bags lined up, each devoted to a particular location, with materials stashed away relevant to that particular project.

Well all that has to end. And so, for those who are interested, here is what I am now experimenting with - to facilitate the away-day journaling. First I still prep the papers and create the structure of what I will use. In this case, the pages were 180gsm watercolour paper stained with koh-i-nor dyes which I have just discovered. They don't show much on the covers as I knew I wanted more decoration but the inside pages are much more vibrant and colourful. 

The decorations are paper napkins: I separate the layers and iron the top layer onto heat-n-bond lite. As needed, the motifs are cut out and ironed to the page background - I keep any white portions of the cut-away napkin as they are marvellous for adding texture at a later stage and can be coloured with neocolor crayons and gel medium, both of which do not take up too much space. For this journal, all the page edges were prepared at home with strips of flowers down the outside edges of each. The text was stencilled using pen and neocolor. The disadvantage was that the rough surface was difficult to journal on; finding a suitable pen has proved almost impossible. Photos can be easily added; I have a template for positioning and will fix them in with photocorners. I want to take the decoration one stage further so have trialled another technique for our next venture - a trip shortly to Ireland.

This is a page from a blank artist's sketchbook which has lovely smooth paper in a pale tobacco colour (I am addicted to brown paper and brown paper bags!). It is perfect for writing on and here is my first trial of how I could add text to the rough coloured pages of a larger book. My Irish journal has 8in x 8in pages, which I have already prepared in marbled shades of pale green. Bearing in mind to keep supplies to a minimum, I tried spraying with dye overstamping whilst still wet with a fern-leaved stamp and an ordinary stamp pad which allows the ink to run a little. (top of pages). Pieces if this paper can be torn into small panels and added to my journal pages using bits of dyed masking tape. The stylised 'leaf' below is created using cat's-eye chalk-stamp pads quickly drawn around and over with a pen - easy on the smooth surface, and these can be cut out and added with a glue stick. My aim is to be able to create highly decorated pages with the minimum of fuss in the tiniest of spaces (I use the motorhome cab as a studio). There will not be time to add napkin motifs before we leave so today I will experiment with some I have already adhered to the fusible web and will try ironing them onto the page surface with a little Clover mini-iron that we can use in the motorhome.

This post is all words when it should have been so much more visual. I'll post the results at some later stage. Meanwhile, enjoy my little foray into further experimentation. (Oh, and if you click on the images, you can see them at enlarged size; colours are a little weird due to my scanner capabilities.)