Monday, 26 May 2014

Lovely London

It has been a grey wet day here - not much fun for a bank holiday weekend but at least the sun shone yesterday for our day in London. I never tire of this wonderful city and its familiar sights.
Our first stop was Trafalgar Square and on to the Mall to deliver my work...

You've seen it before... but I'll show it again!

With it safely delivered we proceeded through Admiralty Arch along with several hundred runners taking part in the London 10K and we realised that three friends from our village were taking part but we didn't see them unfortunately.

We were on our way to Tate Modern to see the Matisse exhibition...

I was only familiar with this work through postcard sized reproductions. Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer exuberance of what was on show.

The colour, the vibrance... the scale...

It was mind blowingly beautiful

For the last seventeen years of his life, Matisse turned to a new approach to his work, cutting shapes from painted papers. Initially it was a way to work out arrangements of objects in a painting but eventually he used it as art form in its own right. If you think this is just cutting out bits of paper then I urge you to see this for yourself because it is stunning. And despite the wonderful scale it is also very intimate personal work. Up close you can see the pin pricks where Matisse and his assistants have repositioned the cut outs, arranging them on the walls of his studios.

We finished our day in London over a leisurely lunch with friends and after a day at home today, I'm back again tomorrow for the opening of the exhibition. Maybe I'll see some of you there?

I'm back in London again on Thursday, Friday and probably Saturday too so I'm not likely to be around the world of blogs much this week... there won't be much reading, writing, commenting or replying to your comments so forgive my absence. I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Unravelling the Message

Over the past few months you'll have seen glimpses of this as I've tried to work through ideas...
Different facial expressions stitched in black on calico...

And then contrasting faces worked in full colour in the form of theatrical masks.

The fun part has been putting it all together

It started out as such a clear idea in my head in response to the title of an exhibition... and seeing it work has been really exciting. I wasn't sure it would.

Coded : Decoded
It is thought that facial expressions are the most universal forms of body language. There is evidence of the universality of facial expressions linked to common emotions such as joy, anger, fear, surprise, sadness etc. We grow up learning how to read these expressions and our own behaviour is informed by our interpretation of this unspoken language. Yet for the individual on the autistic spectrum it can be a minefield and effective communication becomes impossible. What do these expressions really mean?

unravelling the message
Prism at the Mall Galleries
27th - 31st May
Maybe I'll see you there?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Small pleasures

Things that made me smile this weekend...
  • The sponge cake that elicited a response of "Wow, you made a cake" as if I never usually do!
  • My basket of jewel coloured rayon threads, gathered together to finish a project... together with the fact that I have actually finished the project (more about that later this week)
  • Time spent in the sunshine potting up containers to brighten up my doorstep... and ignoring the overgrown wild garden that I seem to be cultivating!
  • Capturing the odd half hour here and there to do some knitting. In a moment of wild impulse I decided to join in with the Martin Storey mystery blanket knit along. Pure madness as I've more than enough knitting on the go... but the Rowan consultant at John Lewis assured me that all serious knitters have at least six projects on the go at once. And I am enjoying see how each square turns out despite being about three weeks behind!.
  • And today, baking a lemon meringue pie before the kitchen got too warm... ready for my book club (i.e. supper club) meeting this evening... and knowing it will make five other people smile this evening too!
Small pleasures, but good ones. And very soon we will be a household with full employment once more so we have booked ourselves a couple of days away next month. Our first holiday together in over two years is definitely something to smile about. There is much to be thankful for.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

A commission

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with commissions. I am always thrilled and flattered to be asked to make something specific but then spend the whole time I'm making it convincing myself it is going to be awful.
I have imagined conversations where the recipient points out everything that is wrong with the offending item... which of course never happens (I don't think anyone would be quite that rude)... but it is stressful all the same. But then once in a while I get a commission that is fun from start to finish. Our friend Janet wanted me to make an apron for her husband's birthday. The brief was that it was to have a list of words that when placed in a certain order would spell out his name vertically.

We talked through the options together and decided that highlighting the name as Scrabble letters would make them stand out. Before anyone points it out (it was the first thing one of my sons said) the letters do not form a crossword. That would have been too clever, as we had enough of a challenge to find suitable words that made a pleasing arrangement and balance of letters.

I loved fiddling around with the spacing and the colours and although it took forever, sewing in all those ends and making it neat on the reverse, it was a real pleasure.

I got my in house model to try it on for size before handing it over... his name is not Pete!

And then yesterday Janet sent us a photo of Pete trying on his new apron on his birthday.

I think part of the pleasure was making something for a special friend... and knowing it would be appreciated. It looks good on you Pete!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mr. Happy

Nothing makes me quite so productive as the last minute. I'm fairly good at planning and organising what needs to be done but when it comes to the actual "doing" I am the master of procrasination. I need that last minute panic to actually make me get down to work.  And I admit, there are times when I cut it a little too fine for comfort.
I've known for several months that I've needed to stitch a second face for my work that is to be exhibited in the Mall Galleries in two weeks time.
So yesterday, having already discarded a first version, I decided it was time to get it done and sat at my machine until my "happy" face was finished. I think I should stitch more happy faces as I actually found myself grinning away as I stitched his smile!

I'm trying to be satified with the result and resisting the urge to stitch another.

My work is all about facial expressions, which are the most universal form of body language, but now I look up close I'm worried that the eyes are a little vacant and don't actually look that happy

But overall, the face makes a good contrast to the Tragedy Mask

and he certainly looks a lot happier than Mr. Grumpy which is the whole point really. I'll reveal the completed work next week... by which time I might actually have it finished!

unravelling the message
Prism at the Mall Galleries
27th - 31st May

Sunday, 11 May 2014


I thought the canvas work pin cushions might be a little ambitious for my Young Embroiderers, especially working on 14 count canvas with perle thread. But I also believe if you have high expectations then students of any age can rise to the occasion. And the girls didn't disappoint and certainly rose to the occasion.
Hannah and Jemima both finished these beautiful pin cushions and both also went on to start second projects.

Bluebell made a slightly smaller version... just as beautiful.

Francesca and Chloe both opted for rectangular versions ( I just knew they would come up with their own ideas), pictured here with Jemima's second project... a keyring of her own design. Martha also finished stitching a rectangular cushion but was busy still assembling it as we were packing up so I didn't manage a photo. Our younger members Sophia, Eve and Elena also made really good progress with their canvas work too but didn't quite finish by the end of the afternoon.

I'd asked everyone to bring in a selection of their work that they had made in past classes and this is Jemima's wonderful collection. At our last meeting we did some very basic knitting and made soft toys based on a simple garter stitch square. I'd done a pretty awful knitted rabbit as a sample (so awful you are not going to see it!) All of the girls made something infinitely superior to my effort and I just love Jemima's frog and dog with his patch eye!

Here are Martha and Chloe's knitting too!

This is a selection of Eve's work from the past year... pretty amazing for a seven year old I think!
Now as for George... well he didn't turn up so I can't show you his work which is probably just as well. He would have only been a distraction... and it did mean there was more cake for us!

Fabulous work girls... as always!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Weekend Preparation

It was noted at home there has been a lack of baking of late... so I had a bit of a session this morning in order to keep the troups happy over the weekend.
A batch of blueberry muffins...

And a fruit laden Harvo loaf... both count as one of your five (or is it seven?) a day with all that fruit, surely? They even border on being healthy unless of course it is eaten sliced with butter. Which of course, is how it tastes best!

More preparation for the weekend has involved finishing off these little canvas work pin cushions as samples for my Young Embroiderers who meet tomorrow.

We're having a bring along a "grown-up" day as a way of trying to introduce more people to the Embroiderers' Guild and one of my helpers has informed me she is bringing along George Clooney.

I've got a feeling she might be telling fibs but I thought I ought to make some more cake to take along tomorrow just in case. I'd like to make a good impression... and I've got a feeling he might be more interested in cake than canvas work.

Of course, the guys at home are complaining and want to know why George gets chocolate cake and they have to have the healthy stuff with fruit! I think they need to get over it.
You doing anything fun over the weekend? Bet you're not teaching George Clooney how to sew!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Stitches and Doodles

It was a busy Bank holiday weekend. It started on Friday evening with a talk to the Harrow branch of the Embroiderers' Guild. I thought we were going to have a bit of a technical disaster with my presentation but thanks to the expertise of Michael Dennis all went very smoothly and seemed to be well received. Thank you Michael! The journey home wasn't quite so smooth when I discovered the A1 was closed and the detour round Barnet took longer than expected due to an HGV driver deciding to ignore the signs and instead he followed the "Non-HGV" diversion. It took about 20 minutes and a fifty five point turn, almost demolishing both the traffic lights and a rubbish bin, to get his truck to make the left hand turn into Barnet High Street and I was sat right behind him going nowhere!
So having  got home at nearly 11.30 pm I was a bit bleary eyed when I arrived at Art and Stitch on Saturday morning. I was teaching a "Stitches and Doodles" workshop... a repeat of the one I did at Art Van Go a few weeks ago. You can read about that one here.
As ever I was totally bowled over by what the students achieved and by the variety of work produced.

They started mostly with black and white doodles.... although this lovely green/russet variagated thread that Jacqui used works well too.

They learned to add text...

And Lynda even managed to turn hers into Zentangles...

and then advanced to a really complex design... I don't think I could even begin to draw this never mind stitch it!

As the class progressed we added applique to the basic stitching and the range of designs produced was fabulous. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

It was a really fun and enthusiastic class and I'm looking forward to doing follow up workshops at both Art Van Go on 9th September and Art and Stitch on 27th September.
The rest of the weekend was taken up with a rather lovely wedding reception, Sunday breakfast with friends and rather a lot of pottering about in the garden. So I really should be knuckling down to some work now.... but it appears to be lunchtime! Ah well... there's always this afternoon.