Needlecase community workshop

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Needlecase project and ‘maker’ essential equipment.

Last year I worked on a large project to create the Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, whilst doing that I worked with a small, lovely group of women who were part of the ‘Syrian Family Group’ who met up regularly in Gateshead. The women made about 10 of the hand stitched patchwork squares for the quilt that is now on display at the Shipley Art Gallery.

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Hand stitching a needlecase.

Recently, the women have asked if I could work on developing some other projects with them, to help them get back into sewing. We decided it would be helpful to make up ‘sewing maker packs’, so that everyone had the essential equipment to get them going back at home. The pack included and pair of scissors, needles, thread and pins. So it was decided to make a needlecase as the first sewing project, to keep the needles and pins safe.

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Sewing flower designs onto the needlecase.

The needlecase was made with felt, so that it was practical, versatile and gave a lovely finish. The cases could also be further embellished with buttons and extra stitching.

We meet this Saturday at the Shipley Art Gallery and had a very busy afternoon. When crafting in groups, I always love the social aspect of it: lots of nattering, laughing and cups of tea!

Here are some of the finished hand stitched felt needlecases made by the group on Saturday.

 

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‘Peace Talks’ chairs made for All We Are Saying.

Over the past month, I have been working on part of my piece for the Artists for Peace ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition at the Holy Biscuit. Until, I have finished the whole process and made all the pieces, it’s still a fluid concept. But, the two chairs I have reupholstered in patchwork signify difference, getting together, comfort and talking. I have used many fabrics from different cultures and countries, patchworked side by side.

Wing-back arm chair.

Wing-back arm chair.

A while ago, I bought two wing-back arm chairs from Tynemouth Market, lovely old stable chairs covered in what looks like an old Welsh textile weave. I chose these chairs for the exhibition as I wanted them to be homely, the type of chairs families would sit on if they were having a family dispute and trying to ‘sort things out’ over a cup of tea. As far away from the large, grand, gilt covered chairs that heads of state would sit in to have their ‘Peace Talks’.

Making patchwork

Making patchwork

The two chars were stripped and using fabrics I had (I’m a terrible hoarder), including clothes my children had grown out of, they were patchworked together. Both chairs has a African seed bead square on the front, which can sometimes be found in other pieces of my work.

Hand stitching the cross sections of fabric.

Hand stitching the cross sections of fabric.

These patchworked panels were tacked onto the chairs and cross sections sewn.

Seat back and wings finished.

Seat back and wings finished.

The last stage I really don’t like doing – pipping the cushion! But as it is a free standing cushion pad, it had to be done.

First finished AWAS chair.

First finished AWAS chair.

The two chairs are the same but different. Like we all are, really.

Second AWAS chair with Wilf.

Second AWAS chair with Wilf.

There are a few little fiddly things I need to do to finish the chairs off, but as long as they are ready for Friday 11th September – preview night- then I’m not too worried!

Next, to continue this piece, I plan to redecorate  small ‘pedestal’ side table. During the preview night and during the exhibition, I plan to encourage people to sit in the chairs, have a cup of tea, talk about their thoughts the whole exhibition has evoked in them and maybe document these discussions in a small table book… The ideas keep evolving…

New Portraits

I have been itching to get on with starting some new portraits but time and other work commitments have been getting in the way. But over Easter, I have managed to start two. I thought, due to the way I work on them, it would be much easier to have two pictures running along each other, so whilst one is drying or I’m planning the next section I can get on with the other one.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

Intensive preparation for my portrait of Isaac Rosenberg.

The first one, I have been planning since completing my portrait of Wilfred Owen in November. It is a portrait of Isaac Rosenberg , a First World War poet and painter who died on the 1st April, 1918. He is to form part of the series of portraits of War Poets, I am making. He is a fascinating character but at the time I didn’t know much about him, so I spent most of January reading the very in depth and interesting biography of him by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Isaac Rosenberg, machine line drawing.

Within Rosenberg’s portrait, I intend to capture images of the Whitechapel Library, images of dancing women to evoke his poem ‘Daughter’s of War’ and other elements I have to finalise. As with the portraits of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, which I have completed and are now hanging at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, I intend to sew parts of his poetry into his clothing adding texture and visual metaphors.

My second portrait I have started working on is of William Morris. Morris has always inspired my work and way of thinking. The Arts and Crafts movement during the Victorian  period placed great importance on quality of fabrics, beauty in design and the quality of craftsmanship.

William Morris, the beginning.

William Morris, the beginning.

I work, initially creating the portrait using a sewing machine to ‘draw’ the lines and then I continue the portrait using hand sewn stitches which are slow and laborious but also very meditative. The portrait of Morris, will also be painted in acrylic then over stitched, using similar techniques to my recent picture ‘Portrait of a Green Man’.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Sewn line drawing complete.

Over the next month or so, whilst working on commissions for the Hancock Museum and printing some more lino prints, I shall also be working on my portraits, which bring me great enjoyment.

Birthday on a Budget/Best Present Ever!!

A Unitopian Birthday!

A Unitopian Birthday!

At the weekend my youngest daughter turned seven. For a long time now, she has been obsessed with unicorns. In fact I think many of her presents from previous birthdays and Christmases have involved unicorns. So much so, it can be very difficult to get in her room for them. When asked what she would like this year for her birthday, unicorns were once again her answer.

This year, as I work as an artist, money has been more tight than usual. There has been massive cuts in the sectors I traditionally work freelance for and I need to ensure I can still pay my studio rent, insurances etc. So spending on day to day has tightened and certainly what we would normally spend on our girls for birthday presents has cut right down.

Luckily, as you may have seen on my previous pages, I can turn my hand to most craft/making/arty thing. So, I decided to hunt out some unicorn related crochet patterns and make her seven unicorns for her seventh birthday. Which was quite time consuming, proved inexpensive. The pattern I used is Amigurumi by Lan-Anh Bui and Josephine Wan, published by GMC Books. I’ve used this book before and it has great, simple instructions for outrageously cute amigurumi creatures. I adapted the horse/zebra pattern by adding a unicorn horn, plus using very bright colours.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

Each unicorn took about three hours to make and the wool we already had around the house or was topped up from our local Poundland. The fun part was choosing the colour combinations!

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Over a couple of weeks, I worked on the unicorns.

Five made, two in pieces...

Five made, two in pieces…

Once the unicorns were finished, we decided it would be even more fun to make a unicorn head band! So, mixing three wools together, I crocheted a triangle shape which could be sewn into a cone shape and attached to a headband.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

On her birthday, her two elder sisters had created a treasure hunt for her unicorn presents. She was given her unicorn headband to where and the first clue to find them. Then she was off, racing around the house to find all of her seven new friends. Since then, they have not left her side and great fun has been had, giving them all names.

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

All in all, I probably spent about £15 on buying more wool, stuffing and the headband. Not bad for the Best Present Ever’!

Portrait of a Green Man. Finished!

Portrait of a Green Man

Portrait of a Green Man

This has turned into a much more detailed project than I had originally planned. Started as a portrait of my husband and just to be a ‘bearded man’, he’s evolved into something else. On some of my previous blogs, you will find the portraits I did of my daughters ‘The Three Sisters’, which are lively, include torn papers from books and mainly machine embroidered. I think, as this was meant to be a ‘warm-up’ piece before I went into war poet Isaac Rosenberg‘s portrait, I just became carried away and used some of the techniques I am using on that series of portraits.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of Robin.

During the winter, my husband does have a beard – he hates shaving and it keeps him warm when cycling to work! In the ‘Green Man’s’ beard I have sewn Rosemary, Violets and small pretty pink flowers, these are to represent our daughters and it was his idea to turn him into a green man – traditional in areas of England, seen often on Churches and pubs (how appropriate!) The flowers are stitched with embroidery silks, as are the books and the robin.

The Robin, as a good friend of mine said, is like the spirit of a friend or family member popping by to check on you whilst you tend the garden. Robin is also one of my husbands middle names. It is also, the most heavily worked area of the portrait. A sort of mini project within the portrait.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of books and cap.

The photo above shows the detail of the ‘tweed’ cap, embroidered using sewing machine thread as I wanted it to be finer and not as ‘heavy’ as the silks would have appeared. It took this picture into the framers this morning and cap was the area the framer was very excited about – he looked like a cap wearing kind of man, too.

I love the books. Books are one of our passions at home and we do have a lot of antique books with lovely decorated spines. Once the outline of the books were machine stitched, I painted them with acrylic, hoping to get the lovely vibrant colours old, bound books once had – acrylic is also used a little on the beard and eyes. I had great fun deciding which designs to sew onto the spines of the books, what colour silk to embroider it with etc.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the words.

Originally, I had planned to find some lines from a book, a song or a poem to sew across the shelves, to express a little bit more about the ‘Green Man’ but one afternoon, while walking the dog, I put together this which seemed to sum up the feeling:

Living in,

Once Industrial City,

Green pledges,

Charge your crown.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

Portrait of a Green Man, detail of the eyes.

As I have done with my war poet portraits, this picture was initially coloured with tea. This has given it a lovely, all over subtle tone and stronger, more stewed tea was used for the beard, eyebrows and shadows behind the books. I am also very pleased with how the eyes look, they are very tricky and I’m not saying I’ve got them ‘right’ but there seems to be a vibrancy and life behind them. They were initially painted with acrylic but the very last touch I made to the portrait was to add the flecks of white which travel around the pupil.

This morning I took the portrait to the framers and last night I entered it for the Royal Academy Summer Show – fingers very tightly crossed as annually over 12,000 entries are made for around a 1,000 places…

W.I.P Potrait of a Green Man, week 2

Sometimes there are rapid changes to this portrait, other times it can be terribly slow and frustrating. I am very happy with the stage I am currently at but have plans for further embellishment.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Portrait of a Green Man, testing frame size.

Below is close-up of the cap, which has been hand stitched to create a ‘herringbone’ tweed effect.

Detail of Cap

Detail of Cap

Hand stitched into the beard, using embroidery silks, are images of rosemary, violets and pink flowers – some even flowing out of his nostrils!

Detail of the beard.

Detail of the beard.

Using acrylic, I have painted the books behind the Green Man in heritage/natural colours which reflect the colours in the beard and my plans for the Green Man’s jumper.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

Heritage painted bookshelves.

With these colours in mind, I started embroidering oak leaves onto the Green Man’s jumper with a Robin sitting on one of the branches!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Silk stitching the robin over yesterdays sewing!

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Embroidery Silk Robin.

Over the next week, I intend to start embellishing the books on the shelves, colour the beard further, paint the Green Man’s shirt and add some hand stitched writing along the book shelf, maybe from a poem or lyric from a song.

Portrait of a Bearded Man W.I.P

In preparation for continuing my series on War Poet portraits (Isaac Rosenberg next), I thought I’d ‘warm up’ my creative skills, which have had a bit of a Christmas slow down, and produce a fun portrait of someone near and dear. Hence I have started a portrait of my husband, who is a sometimes strange bearded man. He is finding the process a bit concerning, as with the way I work, it’s a slow build up before you can really see how it’s looking and a stitch line slightly in the wrong direction is slower to correct than a pencil line.

The initial process, is to create a machine sewn outline of the portrait, which was day 1’s work. Using my photos as reference, I tried to create the unruly shapes the beard makes.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Day One, machine stitched outline.

Next, I worked on the face – which needs more work and a few wrinkles… – and the cap. The cap has been hand sewn in brown, fine thread to create the textures and weaves of a tweed style cap. The shirt and jumper have been machine stitched in. The shirt I intend to paint but the jumper may well be treated like the cap, with extensive stitching to represent knitted stitches.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Day Two, tweed cap, face and clothing.

Behind the portrait, I have decided to place book shelves, which we have spilling over in our house, and I thought they would be a great way to create biographical references of the sitter using the spines of the book. I have also started to turn the sitter into a bit of a ‘Greenman‘, he has Rosemary running through his beard and out of his nostrils and will have Violets, too.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Day Three, rosemary and book shelves added.

Eventually, once I have finished the majority of the embroidery, I will then start to paint the portrait. I have not decided whether to use layers of tea dye, as I did with the War Poet portraits, or to use acrylic as I did on the portraits of my daughters. Each day, my plans change and new ideas develop.

Watch this space…

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters