Playtime…

I know I’ve said it before, but never mind, I’m going to witter on again. The thing is, when you spend most of your creative time making extremely slow art, you do occasionally have the uncontrollable urge to do something different, the bubbling juices just have to be uncorked.

For some time now, I’ve been hatching a plan to do something I haven’t done for, well, let’s just say, it was before Mrs Thatcher’s era…

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I started putting my plan into action – I bought a small selection of oil paints and a bottle of brush cleaner. Yes, I’ve decided that I’m going to spend time this summer revisiting the joy of my teens, oil-painting.

Way back then, I was so lucky to have an art teacher who let us experiment with oils, in fact he positively encouraged a group of us who were being channelled down an academic path, to relax at the end of each week in the Sixth Form, by going along on Friday afternoons to the art department, to paint for a couple of hours.

2015-06-23 14.01.34

I can’t imagine now, why I didn’t keep it up after I left school. Probably I was simply too caught up in the whole forging ahead in your career imperative to think about making art very much in those days. And at times of stress – and there were plenty of those – I turned to stitching as my relaxation.

But for a few years now, certainly since I’ve well and truly left that world behind, I’ve occasionally hankered over oil paints again.

And now, having finally managed to scrape out a tiny space in the house, where I can set up an easel and leave it, I’ve taken the plunge.

Yesterday, having started off in what I’m going to call a slightly prickly mood (you know the one, where you turn green and scaly and begin to breathe fire), I knew it was the right time to crack open the paints and the turps substitute and get down to some serious playtime.

It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes before I was that teenager all over again.

So, there you have it. My plan for the summer (apart from the three weeks in Scotland), is to reacquaint myself with the special alchemy of oils. I’m not anticipating any startling results on canvas, but if yesterday’s experience is anything to go by, I will at least expect to be smiling most of the time.

(Although, thinking about it now, I wonder if the turps substitute had anything to do with lifting my mood…)

Have you ever returned to an old arty love? Do tell.

Happy creating!

 

 

Doors open…

I’m delighted to say that the weather improved just in time for our Private Viewing over at the Mardleybury Gallery in Hertfordshire, and it was a huge pleasure to welcome so many people there to see our work – I’m sure the allure of the wine and nibbles was only minimally responsible…

I took a few pictures, to give you a feel for the show, but if you should find yourself in the Hertfordshire area during June, I urge you to go and see for yourself – I promise  you won’t be disappointed, there’s a range of simply fabulous art on view.

2015-06-05 19.32.04

To be honest, I’m still pinching myself – if anyone had told me this time last year, that I’d be exhibiting at a gallery, well, I’d have laughed.

2015-06-05 19.40.34
Can you see my pieces up on the wall there – I had some lovely feedback for visitors last night.

A small selection of the work on show…

2015-06-05 19.40.03
Ali Mesley’s work was attracting a lot of interest – not surprising, they are very special.

2015-06-05 19.39.44

2015-06-05 19.37.52

The header image for this post is a detail from a collograph print by Jenny Smith-McOnie, evoking the rock pool – truly exquisite.

I’m going to be stitching and talking about stitched-art at Mardleybury Gallery on Sunday 21st June from about 2pm. Come and chat if you’re around.

)O(

 

 

It’s all go…

My mind seems to have been all over the place lately.

I’ve been preparing for the Discover Original Art exhibition – more over at my website (click here for gallery details) – which starts  on Wednesday this week, 3rd June. 

I’m so pleased to have had this date to work towards, because although at times I felt as if things weren’t ever going to come together, knowing that I had to get there, eventually worked its way into my subconscious and turned things around.

2015-05-31 10.43.05

This last 12 months has seen the most amazing upheaval in my approach to making art. Twelve months ago, I had a stack of stitched canvasses sitting on a shelf, with no one except immediate family and you, my lovely blog readers, ever seeing any of them. Now, less than a year later, I’ve met and joined a local community of wonderful artists and begun to find my voice in the real, as well as the virtual world.

2015-05-31 10.43.17

In a very literal way, I’m beginning to feel as if various threads in my life are now coming together.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have dared think of myself as an artist. Now, well, it doesn’t feel too far-fetched.

2015-05-31 10.42.57

So having dates to work towards helps remind me that this is real, and at last there’s the freedom to make art without feeling guilty, which for me, is the most amazing gift imaginable.

2015-05-31 10.43.31

Keeping my head together though, with home, family and art to juggle, is helped enormously by the daily routine of walking the Delinquent Dog.

2015-06-01 09.30.09

Over the last week, everything seems to be growing at such a fantastic rate. The pictures in today’s post were taken this morning and last week – proof that however hard we try, nature just does it all so much better…

2015-06-01 09.45.32

Happy stitching…

 

 

Discover us on Facebook and Twitter…

You may remember, that back in November, I exhibited with the fabulous Discover group of artists.

I’m thrilled to say that Discover is about to exhibit again, this time we’ll be at the lovely Mardleybury Gallery, near Knebworth, Hertfordshire, throughout June.

If you’re in the area, come along and meet the various artists…

demodays

 

We also have new Facebook and Twitter accounts, so I’d be enormously grateful if those of you who use these, would pop by and ‘like/follow’ us.

Thank you x

 

 

 

Which canvas are you?

Do you enjoy personality tests?

We’ve all experienced them at one time or another, whether serious ones when applying for jobs (INFJ* if you’re interested), or the marginally less serious ones in personal-development books, online-dating, dieting, and of course the entirely spurious ones in countless magazine features – they crop up all over the place.

For some reason, when I was fishing through my stash of canvas the other day, I couldn’t help thinking that our preferred choice of canvas might well be an indicator of our personality.

2015-03-19 12.41.10

– straight-forward, upright, focussed, likes sticking rigidly to the rules…

2015-03-19 12.40.32

– needs a bit of structure, but bends the rules a little from time to time – prefers having some flexible of space to work in…

2015-03-19 12.39.28

– pretends to conform, but actually quite a rebel, frequently moving off in different directions…

2015-03-19 12.38.58

– entirely unpredictable, potential anarchist…

Yep, use them all – what does that tell you?

Happy stitching!

*Myers-Briggs test.

Frustrations, faffing and failures…

Today’s the day when the girls return to school and life swings back into what I laughingly call our normal routine.

We’ve been enormously lucky to be able to have the whole family together at home over the Twelve Days of Christmas, which I really adore – a kind of hibernation with chocolates and jigsaws – but now it’s time to move forward into 2015.

Over the holidays, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the plans and ideas bloggers have for what they want to do this year. Lots of people seem to be using numbers as prompts – along the lines of ’15 things in 2015′. It sounds fun (well mostly), but long experience convinces me, I’m not a resolutions kind of girl. In fact, having read The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking – Oliver Burkeman over the holidays, I’m quite content to carry on as I am.

Which, to be honest, has been a bit of a mixed bag over the last few weeks.

Regular readers will know that I generally move straight from one stitchy piece to another, and indeed, I have been stitching all over the Christmas period. But for the first time in ages, I haven’t been able to settle into one piece. In fact, in what is a first for me, I’ve managed to start, stitch and then abandon four new pieces in the last six weeks. I’m not sure why, but nothing has quite come together in my mind and I just haven’t connected to the work.

And I can tell you, there’s nothing like failing at something slowly to give you the full benefit of the experience.

So, just in case it isn’t fifth time lucky, I’ve decided to take positive action.

I have stopped sticking the needle into the canvas and instead, I’ve thrown every ball, skein and odd straggly end of yarn I possess (yep, we’re talking a small skip load) into a huge heap, and then had a thoroughly good time sorting them all into colour families. I then tidied out the boxes and found new ways to store them. Oh yes, this girl knows how to live!

Not content with that, I’ve also had a major move around of all my arty stuff – surprising isn’t it, what you find that you’d forgotten you had – and managed to carve out a slightly bigger area to call my studio (ok, we’re not in Virginia Woolf territory here – I have to share the space with the laundry and the downstairs shower), but woe betide anyone who infringes on my self-defined arty area!

And so I move into 2015 in a more organised, decluttered and refreshed state of mind. But for the moment, I’m not going to stitch. Instead, I intend to spend a few weeks playing.

And with a bit of luck, playing will eventually lead onto something that does get the juices flowing.

So that’s where I am. Mildly frustrated, accepting a few failures and faffing my way into 2015.

So, how was it for you?

I wish it was possible to stop the clock when the children go back to school after holidays, so that I can get round and do all the jobs I can’t do while they’re at home, without it eating into my ‘productive’ time. If anyone manages it, please let me know the secret…

But half-term was good.IMAG7870

Our early tentative plans to camp in the Brecons were consigned to the bin when the torrential overnight rain reminded us just how it feels to get into a damp sleeping bag. Instead the Other Half googled and came up with The Farmer’s Arms in Abergavenny – terrific find, the sort you don’t really want to let on about – and so off we went to meet up with my brother in Hay-On-Wye (best town in the world), and scour the shelves for books on Roman architecture.

Thanks to Booths and the Hay Cinema Bookshop, we now have every book ever published on the subject (I may be exaggerating, or possibly not…) which was a relief and also extremely good fun – a bit like doing a private treasure hunt.

Just before we left Hay for Abergavenny, I ditched the others and nipped in to Wool and Willow. I’d had a good feeling about it when we passed by in the morning, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ve come home with a gorgeous stash of silks, dyed by Jenny Cook of Glasbury – I’ve used some already and they stitch brilliantly – so happy.

We drove home the next day taking in a selection of ruins – well this is me, I can’t pass up on the chance to visit a castle or two…

First there was White Castle…

IMAG7915

Then there was Tintern Abbey…

IMAG7954

And finally, Chepstow Castle…

IMAG7958

I’ve really missed out on heritage trips over the summer, so it felt very good indeed to be wandering over the ruins. More about these in a future post.

But for now, it’s back to the stitching.

Show and Tell…

As promised, here are a few pictures I took at the Artists’ Network Bedfordshire’s exhibition last weekend. This was the first time I’ve ever shown any of my stitched tapestries to anyone ‘outside‘.

IMAG7444

You’ll no doubt remember my problems with getting anything from the ‘stitched‘ state, to the ‘showable‘ state over the years. The brilliant thing about having the opportunity to show at this exhibition, was being gently forced to face up to the issue and find a solution.

Thanks to Kathy (Of Gardens, Grandmothers and Gleanings), blogging about the The Eye of The Needle exhibition at the Ashmolean, I went over to Oxford and saw how the Feller Collection had mounted some of their fragments of needlework, using calico stretched over a canvas frame, with the needlework stitched to the calico. Ta Dah! At last, a way to do it that seemed sympathetic with my pieces and achievable without too much difficulty.
IMAG7482

Here’s my table with Firmament, Hedonism and Brian.

IMAG7491

So what did I learn over the weekend?

IMAG7479I discovered how good it feels to be part of a group of like minded people. Making art in many forms is a largely solitary existence, so getting together with other people was a wonderfully uplifting experience. It’s wonderful to find kindred spirits out there! And as you can see, they’re a talented and versatile lot around here.

IMAG7478

I also learned that people are very interested in how we make our pieces. I hadn’t anticipated how chatty visitors would be, and it was quite an eye-opener to realise that complete strangers might actually want to know more about the process and the inspiration behind our work. I also discovered how much I enjoy talking about my stitching (I do hope I didn’t bore for England, but once I got going, I found I loved explaining all about it).

So my first foray into the real world was a very happy experience, and now I know that I can do it, I’m sure I’ll be doing it again.

 

 

 

Scotland and other news…

IMAG2828

Scotland is very much in the news at the moment with the vote less than 24 hours away! But I shall have Scotland in mind throughout 2015 thanks to Jo Woolf at The Hazel Tree, who has produced a fabulous calendar featuring her wonderful photographs of Scottish scenery – and best of all for me – Scottish castles…

If like me you’re in love with Scottish countryside and history and you’re not already following Jo’s blog and website, do go over there right now and have a look around. I thought I knew Scotland pretty well, but since I’ve been reading Jo’s posts, I’ve acquired a long list of places I must visit the next time I go north for a holiday.

I’m not sure how many calendars Jo has available, but there’s a link here to take you to her Etsy shop if you fancy a little piece of Scotland on your wall next year.

(I’m sure you know me well enough by now, but just to reassure you, this is a personal recommendation and not sponsored in any way – I am just a big fan!).

And in other news…

Well, I’ve finally done it – I have decided to dip my toe tentatively into the real world with my stitchy stuff. At the weekend, I’m hoping to have a small number of my stitched tapestries on display at the Ivinghoe Community Hub, (really close to Ivinghoe Beacon for those in the know) as part of the Artists’ Network Bedfordshire September Art Trail.

Having played around with various ideas, I’ve finally come up with a simple, but I hope effective way of presenting the tapestries, so the last few days have seen me busily putting them together, stabbing myself in the finger far too many times with a very sharp needle and having much more fun than is strictly allowed with a roll of bubble-wrap.

If anyone is in the Beds/Bucks/Herts borderland this weekend and fancies tea, cake and original local art – Ivinghoe is your place to be (the tea room in the same building is absolutely first-rate – it really is extremely good, and you know I’m fussy about these things!).

Wish me luck!

Little treasures…

The other day, while I was looking for something completely different, I came across this little box which had belonged to my grandmother.

IMAG7298

Not very exciting is it. But then, what happens if you take off the lid and peep inside?

IMAG7320Any clues?

Here are the sides…

IMAG7301 IMAG7304 IMAG7305 IMAG7302

I’m sure many of you will know now exactly what it is…

IMAG7335

…opened out, it’s obvious – a needle-case.

Dozens of rusty (but still very sharp) needles. And what’s in the middle?

IMAG7310 IMAG7341

Just more needles – still wrapped in their black tissue.

A gift to my grandmother from her brother, fighting in France during The Great War. (He survived).

Not all family heirlooms are valuable, some are priceless.

 

 

Under one roof…

IMAG6808

Many of you will know that I have a passion for historic places and keep a blog where I record my various visits. This seemed like a good idea when I started, no need to bore people who expected stitchiness with historical stuff over here, and visa versa. But – you knew there was a ‘but’ coming didn’t you – but, having had things arranged like this for a couple of years, I’ve decided to risk it and bring the historic stuff under this blogging roof.

To be honest, keeping it separate has always felt a bit weird, but when I started blogging, the advice was all about being topic specific. However, I think the latest post from Annie Cholewa (AKA Knitsofacto) sums it up perfectly, especially her quote from Mark Kerstetter .

‘The best blogs are acts of bricolage, a new kind of collage, incorporating images, texts, ideas. Why not use them all? And while you’re at it, be yourself.’

Until I brought the history stuff together with everything else, I wasn’t really being myself.

I apologise in advance for any pant-removing boringness, but at least you’ll now be getting the whole me.