Sunday, 20 February 2011

A fascinating workshop

the piece I worked on yesterday at an Embroiderer's Guild workshop
(click on the image to view it at a larger size)

It's been a long while since I posted about my creative activities - I have plenty of work 'in progress', undertaken in snatched moments. Plenty that I could tell you about: a new 'quilted journal' I am designing, a revised way of recording my travels, and our garden; and I've yet again had to revamp my workspace. I've been inspired by a visit to London and the British Museum (planning a piece on that), by the books I am reading and experiments with papers, threads and fabrics.

At the Saturday workshop
(Cherwell Valley Embroiderers' Guild)
None more so than yesterday, when I took the day off and attended the most marvellous workshop focussing on 'Local Landscapes', tutored by the excellent Liz Harding. After a fascinating preliminary talk on Friday evening, I was prepared for abandoning my preconceived ideas of creating work that focused on a love of landscape. We were asked to bring along calico, felt, fabric snippets, sketchbook and pencils - and photographs of a chosen subject. I'm into winter trees at present (for another project!) but decided most were too fussy and so chose one from which I could eliminate unnecessary detail. Liz suggested we did not try to copy or sketch what we were thinking of doing but to study our original and then work from memory.

The photograph that formed the basis of my 'local landscape' piece;
observed and then put to one side.

I chose a base fabric that spoke to me of a cold winter's day and laid that over a backing of felt. I was working with a bag of someone else's scraps (having omitted to bring other than calico and cheesecloth!) The base fabric seemed to simulate a winter sky as dusk was about to fall, with a deep green that evoked a hilly landscape. Over this, I laid strips of randomly cut and manipulated felt in a deep moss green -  representing my tree (this was an ash that had been coppiced many years ago), and in the foreground a piece of dyed silk that to me represented marshy ground and an old hedge-bank, so typical round here. But I wanted to 'distress' the tree trunks, so overlaid the felt with a very open-weave cheesecloth. I pinned and hand-stitched the overlaid felt down one side only, and up the centre of each wobbly strip. I cut another 'trunk' and covered that too, set aside for the moment. I cut back the cheesecloth so that part of the felt still showed.

I sprayed the trunks and part of the background with walnut ink and whilst it was damp, coated the cheesecloth with matte gel medium and rubbed 'Neocolor II' crayons into the textured cloth. Likewise with the loose trunk. After drying with a hair-dryer, I attached the loose trunk to add dimension, splitting the top to provide branches. The scene was set. More muslin, part-sprayed with lime green (very mossy) was added across the bottom of the trunk and the hedge-bank. I hand-embroidered fly-stitch trees in the background and added a button-hole fence between the bank and field. Time was almost up, so I pinned the piece to a square of calico and added a hand-written word-whisper. There was still a little to do: tint the stray cheesecloth thread ends with deep purpled and lichen grey-greens, and stain the muslin bank and marshy patches. That was to be done yesterday evening but stupidly, I left the whole thing behind in the workroom where we met! So rather than show the finished piece, properly mounted as a page in the 'quilted journey' fabric book I am making, I'll post a scan of my notes from the Friday evening talk and the workshop yesterday. Click on the image to enlarge it. Hope it makes sense. I'll post the finished page when I have completed it - must first collect it from the kind lady who rescued it for me.

Click on the image to enlarge my note-book page.
Liz Harding was an inspiration, offering individual attention as each of us sought help; she gently encouraged us to think how we could expand our ideas, so persuasively that many of us surprised ourselves at what we were able to achieve. Her method of presentation was unusual - I for one will never forget the day that I all but completed a piece in less than five hours. An open mind and a gifted tutor; the perfect mix for learning something new.

And now to apologise: my email program went haywire some while back and I still have not sorted the new one. Blog comments are not a problem (and I love receiving those, keeps me in touch with the world; thankyou), but if you have been trying to contact me personally and have not had a reply - well, I can as yet only access one of my email addresses. I've changed that  in  my 'profile' and hope that will ease problems for the moment. And I wish all the best to my  latest 'followers', and again apologise for not thanking you personally. Eventually, all will be sorted, but right now, it's a personal nightmare.