Friday, 29 May 2015

Muddle Brain

It has been another mad week that began with a birthday. Son number two, Sam has reached the grand age of 30, so we celebrated with a meal out in Cambridge. The more astute among you will have worked out that this means I have two sons in their thirties... I don't feel old enough... How can I be when in my head I'm only thirty... But I am... Old enough that is!

I have also been in and out of London busy with the exhibition as I was day manager for a couple of days. On Wednesday I had to lock up the gallery and then return to unlock the following morning. I was terrified I had left things switched on or had not locked it up properly but it was all fine on my watch... Except for the one piece of work that fell off the wall in the breeze... And for the young chap who came in wondering would the group like to collaborate with him in his ceramics. We were enthusiastic until he mentioned he was working on a line of ceramic sex toys... What? It's like that in Hoxton you know!

As a group Prism have been exhibiting together for 16 years, the past fifteen in the Mall Galleries. The Mall is a lovely big airy space, but it is very conservative, very safe and very expensive. The move to Hoxton Arches this year was made for various reasons, largely practical considerations such as availability and cost, but also as a way of reaching an audience new to textile art. And it appears to have been successful. Our usual textile audience seem to have found us in the new location but there have also been local gallery owners, artists, and young East End hipsters who have wandered in to take a look... And the occasional sex toy manufacturer of course! The exhibition is open for another couple of days before we're back again on Sunday evening to take it all down. You can read an interesting perspective of the exhibition here on Katharine's blog.

This morning has been a slow start to the day. I've ideas for new art and want to work in my sketchbooks yet I also need to think about a couple of teaching weekends coming up, as well as planning for Open Studios which are only just over a month away, not to mention attending to the numerous emails that are screaming for my attention but my head doesn't feel clear enough to do anything much. It's a muddle! I keep jumping from one task to another without achieving anything very much at all. I also have an overwhelming desire to clear up and de clutter as if clearing my physical space will clear my head! But I'm tired... So I've not done that either. I've written a rambling blog post instead! I would go out and potter about in the garden but it's a bit wet today... So I'll carry on pottering about here inside my muddled head, not achieving very much and maybe spring back into action tomorrow... Or next week, who knows.

I hope your weekend is good... And not too wet... or muddled! And if you get to  Hoxton to see the exhibition, I hope you enjoy it. Do let me know.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Five on Friday - My Week

A snapshot of my past week for Five on Friday. This week I have been

1. Painting

On Saturday my Mum treated me to a day out painting with artist Jamel Akib. Although I draw, and despite my brief foray into egg tempera painting earlier this year, I don't really paint and haven't been formally taught, so a day learning to use acrylics was a new experience for me... What fun!

Jamel was hilarious and kept us laughing all day throughout the frantically paced workshop. We started by painting wild animals and we all did a gorilla. We could then choose a different animal so I picked this fabulous rhino. I thought the strong silhouette would make it easier. What was fun for me was I hardly used a brush. The background was put on with a roller and most of the rest was done with a piece of card. Who knew you could do that!

After a delicious lunch provided by the organisers he got us all doing a mini seascape... Best if looked at from a distance with squinty eyes!

And finally we all painted Marlene Dietrich. What fun and a lovely birthday present from my Mum ( even though it's not my birthday until July).
2. Visiting an Exhibition

On Monday I met with my friend Jude and we spent the morning at the V & A at the Alexander McQueen exhibition Savage Beauty. I was totally bowled over by the drama, theatricality (is that even a word?) and the sheer talent and vision. Stunning!

This goes way beyond fashion and as you might have gathered I absolutely loved it.

This are just a small selection of some of my favourite pieces, but I loved it all. Impossible to pick favourites really.

I will go back again before it closes.

3. Exhibiting.

If you read my last post you will know that I have work in an exhibition this week with Prism and this is just a very small taste of some of the other work on show. The birds above are by Ali Brown.

Fragile knitted wire by Anita Bruce.

Found object installation by Jackie Langfeld and the trio of machine stitched women by Sass Tetzlaff. There is so much more of course, and such variety so it is well worth a visit. Details can be found in my last post.

4. Baking

I couldn't really go a week without some sort of down time in the form of baking. This week's offering is a cinnamon and Nutella cake, which made the house smell divine as it was baking. Didn't taste bad either!

5. Talking

Last night I was giving a talk to the Milton Keynes branch of the Embroiderer's Guild about inspirational women and how they have influenced my work. Despite a small technical hitch it seemed to go well and I was reminded how much I enjoy this sort of interaction. I woke up this morning totally inspired by a conversation I had with one of their members and some of the Alexander McQueen  images and I'm already enthusiastic with ideas for what I might make for next year's Prism show. You'll just have to hang around for another year to find out what it is but I'm thinking skulls and feathers!

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015





Be Incredible!

Don't wait for the storm to pass...

Learn to dance in the rain!

Six pieces of work, densly machine stitched thread paintings, finally finished on Friday afternoon with nearly 48 hours to go. No sweat, she says with tongue firmly placed in cheek. It was cutting it fine even for me! But the work is up...
Taking inspiration from the new venue and the many examples of graffiti in the surrounding area of Hoxton and Shoreditch, I chose to explore those internal monologues or affirmations we use to communicate to ourselves, shouted out for all to see.

The exhibition, Prism at Hoxton Arches, is ready for opening tomorrow and looks great. I'm thrilled to be included in such a wonderful exhibition where there is so much fantastic work from people I admire. It is humbling!

If you can make the trip to London over the next couple of weeks I urge you to pop in. Hoxton Arches is in Cremer Street, right next to Hoxton overground station, on several bus routes along Kingsland Road or just a 15 minute walk from either Old Street or Liverpool Street stations. It's worth it!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Bella Italia!

This time last week we sloped off for a four day break to Venice... no embroidery, no deadlines, just art, culture, lots of walking and good food... so much good food!
It was beautiful!
We had a small apartment near the Rialto Bridge and the sun shone the whole time we were there.

We walked miles along canals, mostly trying to avoid the really touristy spots which were heaving with people!

Although we did go briefly to St. Mark's Square to visit the Doge's Palace

Did I say it was beautiful?

We took the Vaporetto out to the islands to see the glass on Murano...

And the glorious coloured houses on Burano.

We saw lots of art... some very old and some more modern... this is me outside the Guggenheim! It was also the Venice Biennale while we were there and although we didn't pay to go to into the pavillions there was contemporary art scattered in various gardens and galleries around the city.

On a whim we decided to go and have Bellinis at the famous Harry's Bar... let's just say we've done it once and are not likely to do it again!

It was small, somewhat lacking in atmosphere and the cocktails were about three times the price they should have been... although they were very good! And although I have many lovely American friends, I hate to say the bar was frequented by several very loud and brash American tourists, including the chap who announced they had just been to Rome and it was pretty much like New York really, except about 2000 years ago! I almost spat out my bellini, except at that price I wasn't going to waste it!

As we have a masked Venetian ball to attend at the end of this month we treated ourselves to a couple of masks from one of the lovely mask shops, where we saw them being made... yes, that scary man is my husband!

A lovely, relaxing four days...

I came back to three solid days on the sewing machine but finished the work which we took into London to the gallery today... more about that later this week. I've had a lovely day out with my Mum yesterday and another day in London to look forward to tomorrow... so lots of blog post material coming up... just no time to write it!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Five on Friday... Baking

It's not all stitch, stitch, stich around here you know... although it certainly feels like it! In between revving up the sewing machine and getting out for a daily walk (necessary for my sanity) there has been an occasional spot of baking. So in the spirit of joining in with Five on Friday I bring you five recent bakes... although when I say recent I mean since the last time I shared any baking so in fact there really hasn't been that much baking and it is pretty much all stitching. I'll shut up now and show you the cakes... and biscuits!

1. Lemon Cookies.

When I spotted these on Anna's blog I just loved the sound of them and knew I had to give them a try. They look a little pale... Possibly even a little uninteresting... But they were deceptively good and will definitely be added to my regular repertoire. I urge you to try them... recipe here.

2. Flourless chocolate cakes

Yes, I know I make these a lot but they never fail to please. Made with almonds and not flour they are totally gluten free but very chocolatey and indulgent. These two were made for our Embroiderer's Guild supper. Unfortunately, although gluten free they are not calorie free!

3. Apricot and Almond Sponge.

This is a pretty standard sponge with the addition of ground almonds, sandwiched together with apricot jam and a marscapone cream. Made because I had half a tub of marscapone left in the fridge and I didn't want to waste it. The cake didn't hang around for long... no waste there.

4. Fruity Flapjacks

Moist, chewy, packed with fruit and nuts, at least one of your five a day... Need I say more?

5. Marmalade Cake

Another one of my regular cakes... Nigel Slater's marmalade cake. I made two. One was a present for one of the staff members at Missenden Abbey because she loaned me the DVD of Paddington. It's a bit of a long story that dates back to me saying there was no marmalade for breakfast on one of my weekends at the Abbey. It turned into an ongoing "Marmalade and Paddington" saga and I won't bore you with the details. But it ended up with Jo lending me the DVD which I watched... and enjoyed, one evening on one of my Abbey weekends so the cake was a thank you... And the other cake... Well I couldn't not make one for the boys at home if I was making one for someone else. There would have been mutiny!

The cake tin is currently empty but I've only time for stitching now. My deadline is the end of next week and I'm having some time off this weekend.... More about that another time and possibly more about the stitching too. Have a good weekend.

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Year in Books - May

Another month already (I think May might just be my favourite time of year) and another selection of books for the Year in Books.

I really enjoyed Gone Girl, my choice for April. It twisted and turned and kept me guessing right to the end. It's hard to say much more without giving too much away but the story is about Nick Dunne, whose wife Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is the chief suspect for what is believed to be a murder case... Or is it? You will just have to read it!

I also read This Boy, a memoir by the politician Alan Johnson, our village book club choice for this month. It tells of his childhood, where he was raised in extreme poverty in a single parent household. He came across as likeable and it was interesting enough and a quick read but not terribly well written so I am not sure why it has won awards. There was also a lot about his living conditions that were very familiar to my own early childhood in the East End of London, so perhaps I felt I already knew about existing in just two rooms with no bathroom and an outside toilet! Tell me something new!

 Two really enjoyable reads this month have shared the same title... Walking Home. The first I read was Simon Armitage's tale of walking home to Marsden along the Pennine Way going from north to south and funding his trip with poetry readings. It was a really enjoyable, witty and charming tale. Likewise, Clare Balding's anecdotes in Walking Home based on her popular Radio 4 series Ramblings were also witty and charming and just make me want to put on my boots and get outside.... which is what we did today.
Making the most of a fine Bank Holiday Monday we did a lovely nine mile walk with a stop at a village pub for lunch and a beer!
It was glorious and so much better than the day of stitching I had scheduled for today... although it does mean I will be playing catchup all week!
I probably shouldn't have come home and done two hours gardening though... I can barely move now! My choice for May for the Year in Books is the Man Booker prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I don't think this will be an easy nor quick read but I've a lot of train journeys into London this month so plenty of time for reading.

Are you reading anything good at the moment? Any good walking books you can recommend?
Joining in with Laura for The Year in Books at a Circle of Pine Trees.