Hook a Portrait: Marilyn Monroe

Line drawing onto hessian.

Line drawing onto hessian.

This weekend I am teaching a workshop on Saturday about using the traditional technique of ‘Hooky’ matting or Rag Rug to make portraits, at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle. I have used this technique before to create the portrait of my Mum, Nan and Great Aunty in my ‘Matriarchal Trefoil’. So I decided to have another play with a new portrait, using much bolder colours and blocking of fabric – like a Pop Art screen print.

I decided to make a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, as it fits into the style I was wanting to play with: Pop Art and it’s the 90th Anniversary of her birth next year – so why not!

Rather than to sew the hessian onto a mat frame – as this would be quite restrictive for a one day course – I decided I would recycle an old wooden frame and staple the hessian straight to the back. I then free hand drew the portrait on to the hessian – though for the workshop I will show fellow makers how to use a cheating method of using net and printed portraits.

'Line drawing' with hooky.

‘Line drawing’ with hooky.

Hooky mat technique can be a little like creating stained glass windows and that was how I approached this portrait. I ‘drew’ a line with the hooked black strips of wool – I will create a video/photographic ‘How To:’ sometime soon…

Filling in the colours.

Filling in the colours.

The next stage is to start filling in the colours. I wanted to keep it very much in the genre of the pop art screen print, so used blocks of colour rather than attempting shading. I have used recycled blankets, velvet children’s clothes and old dresses.

Completed background.

Completed background.

The fun part was choosing which colours and fabrics I wanted to use, with what I had at hand and I wanted to keep the colour palette small.

Painting the frame.

Painting the frame.

Now, this may seem like I was painting the frame at the wrong point in making the portrait but, in my defence, I was hooking straight onto the frame and was worried I would damage the newly painted wood with the hook; plus, until the picture was finished, I really didn’t know what colour the frame needed to be to enhance the picture.

Finished Marilyn Monroe 'hooky' mat portrait.

Finished Marilyn Monroe ‘hooky’ mat portrait.

A couple of coats of paint are needed to completely finish the picture so that I’m happy with it. but this has been such a brilliant, fun project to do. The finished picture is about 70cm square, framed. I am so looking forward to seeing what the the workshop participants create!

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Egyptian Book of the Dead

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

Egyptian Book of the Dead panel

In the past I have made some very exciting pieces for the Great North Museum, Hancock, many of those linked to their Egyptian collection. To add to the interactive ‘Mummy’, the dressing up clothes and other pieces, I was recently asked to make a large textile panel which showed the ‘Weighing of the Heart’ ceremony – as the heart should be lighter than a feather to reach the afterlife – to be used in school workshops.

Decorative border and gods in place.

Decorative border and gods in place.

The panel shows the Egyptian gods Anubis, Ammut, Thoth and Horus. The panel was painted on fabric, to ensure it could be easily folded and was practical to use for school workshops.

Thoth and Horus.

Thoth and Horus.

When starting to research the different gods, how they were illustrated, the colours they wore, it was quite frustrating to see there was quite a lot of variation – they both have very distinctive faces but the design changes from tomb wall panel.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Thoth and Horus completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

Anubis completed, detail.

One the panel, was to be written in hieroglyphics a secret message from the museum’s Learning Team, for the school children to decode. Again from researching hieroglyphics, I have discovered there is also quite a lot of variation in the standard imagery used – but my 10 year old was able to decipher it last night without a crib sheet from what she remembered learning at school a couple of years ago, so I think the children will be fine!

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Anubis and Ammut weighing the heart.

Whenever I work on projects like this, I realise just how lucky I am to be able to get involved with such interesting and fascinating projects – for this to be my job!

Peace Squares update.

It has been fantastic to see the response to the call out for Peace Squares to be made as part of the Artists for Peace  ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition at the Holy Biscuit in September. I would like to share a few of the squares which have recently arrived.

All We Are Saying Peace Squares, a selection.

All We Are Saying Peace Squares, a selection.

The squares above were made by members of the North Shields Embroidery Guild and the Tuesday Crafternoon group. They are a fabulous collection, even using found items like shells to decorate the square.

Peace Square made by Margaret Graham.

Peace Square made by Margaret Graham.

Embroidered and progged Peace Square made by Kath Price.

Embroidered and progged Peace Square made by Kath Price.

If you would like to make a Peace Square and send it to us – wherever you are in the World – then please send it to:

Peace Blanket

The Holy Biscuit
1 Clarence Street
Shieldfield
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1YH

The squares can be made in any textile technique – knitting, sewing, proggy matting, fabric painting etc. If the finished design size can be 20 cm square and please allow a few more cm around the square for sewing. The only thing we ask is if the square is not to be overtly religious or political, as we would like this to be a very inclusive work.

Peace in many languages.

Peace in many languages.

The beautiful piece above was sent into us anonymously and it’s a lovely piece on pretty fabric.

Two part peace square.

Two part peace square.

Give Peace a Chance embroidered square.

Give Peace a Chance embroidered square.

I hope to share more of the squares we’ve had delivered again soon.

Grayson Perry’s ‘House for Essex’.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Whit week and the school holiday, we all went to visit Grandma and Granddad down in beautiful Suffolk. Having seen the Channel 4 programme the week before about Grayson Perry’s new work, a collaboration with FAT architects, called a ‘House for Essex’, we decided to go and visit it.

Tantalising glimpse of 'House for Essex' across the fields.

Tantalising glimpse of ‘House for Essex’ across the fields.

The house is built in a small Essex village called Wrabness, which is near the banks of the River Stour and a nature reserve.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

To get near to the house, you can either walk from the local railway station (the best route for those who are unable to walk far or are unsteady on their feet) or like we did and many others, take a slightly longer walk but much more scenic and fun, by walking down the public footpath near to the historic and beautiful All Saint’s Church. The church itself is worth a look at too, it was built in the 1100’s with a separate bell ‘cage’ built after the bell tower collapsed.

Two excited and inspired children!

Two excited and inspired children!

One of my daughters had already seen the Channel 4 programme about how the house was designed and built, so she was super excited as we walked along near the nature reserve catching tantalising glimpses of the house as we walked along the footpaths.

Side view of house.

Side view of house.

With us, were other people making their way to the house, coming from different directions. It was a little bit like a scene in ‘Close Encounters’, when people were drawn to the hill ‘Devil’s Tower’ not knowing why and having no control over their actions – they just had to go.

House for Essex, details of tiles.

House for Essex, details of tiles.

House for Essex, details of tiles.

House for Essex, details of tiles.

The design and detail for the outside of the house is stunning. It also amazed me how wonderfully it sits in the landscape, being such a rural area. The gold roof, sitting beautifully above the trees.

House for Essex, roof detail.

House for Essex, roof detail.

During the Summer, there is an opportunity to stay in the house, for a large fee, of course. As a textile artist, I feel I would love to stay there during the Winter, using Grayson Perry’s interior tapestries and decoration, as inspiration only leaving the building to collect food, walk down to the nature reserve and observe the cranes at the docks of Harwich and Felixstowe. Plus, there would be less people – like us! – peering in at the fabulous house!

House for Essex, viewed from the road leading to the railway station.

House for Essex, viewed from the road leading to the railway station.

Having been lucky enough to visit Grayson Perry’s ‘House for Essex’, with a young family, I would fully recommend it to anyone in the area to go and visit it. I also urge the people of Wrabness to get postcards made, the café open and enjoy this wonderful opportunity to celebrate having a major artwork on their doorstep.