Tuesday 26 October 2010

Chocolate and Lace

After an intense few days making samples with lace I found myself distracted. I was in need of a diversionary tactic and so cake making came to the rescue. A chocolate sponge with a vanilla cream cheese filling...

But the lace was never far from my mind...

And I just couldn't help myself...

Back to my samples and I've started to introduce some colour. Floral designs reminiscent of those beautiful Mexican costumes that started me on this research.

Thank you once again to everyone who has offered snippets of lace to help with my project. Your generosity is wonderful and some of the stories amazing... more details here if you want to help.

Monday 25 October 2010

Lots More Lace

Lots more sampling. I finally think I know where I am going with this module.

Thank you so much to everyone who has promised to look out some lace for me. It is very much appreciated. I have tried to reply to each of you but sometimes the "no reply" function doesn't let me, so if I haven't responded to your comment please email me.

And if you missed my last post... I am looking for scraps of lace, however tiny that might hold stories or special memories along with a brief note from you about those stories. I then plan to incorporate them together with the text into my final piece for my "Fine Art Embroidery" module. I would love it if you could be part of this project.

Friday 22 October 2010

Connecting Threads

A few months ago I put up a post about my on off relationship with quilting, including this hand pieced hexagon quilt top made from Laura Ashley fabrics, that had remained unfinished in a plastic bag at the back of my wardrobe.

I knew I would never ever finish it... I didn't like the fabrics anymore, I wasn't happy with the design and to be honest there are too many other things I would rather be doing. So when Kayla Coo left me a comment that said "Don't throw your Laura Ashley quilt away because I think it's lovely", there followed an email exchange the result of which was I sent her the unfinished quilt top along wth the the bag of remaining fabric hexagons. And last week Kayla sent me this photograph... the quilt alomost finished by her mother in law.

And I think it is beautiful! I love that someone else has taken the care to turn something I had discarded into a thing of beauty. I love that two stitchers who have never met have both worked into this quilt, over twenty years apart. I love that continuity and connectivity. Which leads very nicely into my next idea....

In the silk lace piece that I blogged about yesterday I used scraps of lace that were left from my sister-in-laws wedding dress, given to me by Stewart's Mum the last time we were in Dundee. Again I like the idea of the connectivity, the fact the lace has a story and that by incorporating it into a new piece of work I am somehow weaving pieces of history together. It ties in with my ideas about missing pieces of stories and the way I have associated it with lace.

And so I have a request for you my blogging friends... do you have any scraps of lace at home? Pieces that might have been handed down to you, pieces from wedding dresses or christening gowns, bits cut from garments or projects, hankerchiefs or petticoats... anything that might hold memories. If you do and you would be willing to part with even the tiniest scrap, would you be willing to send me a piece? If so please leave me a comment or send me an email and I'll let you know where to send it.

What I would like are snippets of lace together with a brief note about why they hold special memories. My plan is to incorporate them into my final piece of work together with the text - I'm not entirely sure how yet but I know I'm excited about the idea and would love it if could help me. Thank you!

Thursday 21 October 2010

More Lace

There have been more paper cuts

as I've explored the potential of lace to both conceal and yet at the same time reveal those tantilising glimpses of what lies beneath.

Exploring the structures of lace through drawing and sampling on different materials.... here stitching onto brown paper, washing some of it away and then painting it with black ink.

Introducing colour through applique and stitching onto net.

Exploring different fibres - this time layers of silk fibres with trapped pieces of lace and paper doilies - partially hidden by the layers.

Enjoying working with neutral colours

And letting pieces of text show through.

And then burning into the sample to create holes. Loving the revealing qualities of lace yet enjoying the stories that might be concealed... The missing pieces... the holes.

Enjoying being at the stage in my current module where the research and the practice are starting to come together.

And talking of revealing... last night we went to the Cambridge Arts Theatre and saw this...

Brilliantly done and very funny!

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Catch Up

Life seems to be one long round of catch up recently and as I skip between family events, teaching classes, keeping up with degree work and trips out it seems hard enough to fit in any semblence of normal activity, never mind blogging. So this post is a bit of a catch up too! There has been yet another significant family birthday this month... my little brother is fifty! Happy birthday Tony!

On Monday I took a rather special class as a group of five ladies got together in one of their homes and invited me in to teach them a "machined textures" day. This is the second time I've taught at someone's home rather than in a classroom environment and it made for a really good day (not to mention the really good lunch that they provided!) Most pieces are still works in progress but as ever they look good and I'm always amazed by the variety produced.

Catriona's is probably the least finished but as she was our host and was running around providing us with cups of tea and all the necessary bits and pieces we needed I think she did really well to get this far. I especially like the way she is using the dark background.

The second one is Jenny's and I got to see the finished piece yesterday which is beautiful.

I think the one above is Monica's and the one below is Jackie's

And last but not least is Jenny's (another Jenny!)

Straight onto Tuesday and another class. This is one that I teach every week and the ladies have been working on a long term project over the past few weeks to make a book jacket based on some machined shadow work using sheer fabrics. I made another based on my poppy seed heads as an example and although most of the group are still working on assembling their covers, yesterday two of the ladies completed theirs.

Margaret made this beautiful example below.

And Pat made this lovely book jacket which was her second version!

Meanwhile I've got lots more teaching coming up in the next couple of weeks... back at Art and Stitch and Art Van Go amongst others, as well as few trips here and there so I could well be playing catch up for a few more weeks yet. But let me finish this particular catch up with a couple of things received recently. First of all a lovely little parcel of goodies arrived unexpectedly from the very talented Carolyn of Love Stitching Red. Thank you Carolyn!

And last week a blog award from Jenevieve. I'm very flattered, so thank you very much Jenevieve. I expect there are rules about passing this on but those of you who know me from old will know I like to break these rules... because all the blogs I read are lovely blogs!

Must fly... degree work to catch up with today! (Not to mention laundry and housework!)

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Seasonal smells!

More neighbourly gifts of apples and pears

and the knowledge that my waistline cannot take anymore crumble or cake.

So instead of baking I've preserved the fruit by making mincemeat. This is something I've tried on and off for several years but I'm never convinced it's worth the effort for something that doesn't taste an awful lot better than a good supermarket brand... especially once it has been baked into mincepies. Until last year that is, when I discovered the most wonderful recipe in The River Cottage Handbook of preserves.

A fabulous concoction of fruit, spices and alcohol but with no added fat. So good it can be eaten straight from the jar!

This is my Pear and Walnut version of the recipe:

Peel, core and chop 1 kg of cooking apples and cook with the juice and grated rind of two oranges until soft. Mash or blend to a puree (you should have about 700ml of fruit puree)

To this add:
500g peeled, cored and chopped pears
200g currants
200g sultanas
200g raisins
50g dried cranberries
100g orange marmalade
250g demerara sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 grated nutmeg
100g chopped walnuts

Mix well, cover and leave to stand for 12 hours.
Heat the oven to 130 deg C and put the mincemeat into a shallow dish and bake uncovered for 2 hours. Stir in 50ml brandy and spoon into warm sterilized jars. Use within 12 months... although it will be all gone long before then!

As the aroma of fruits, spices and brandy wafted around the kitchen this afternoon it started to smell very festive (I know... too soon!) I've started my cake too. I'm trying a different recipe this year and following the one on The Pink Whisk which you can find here and here.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Joe the Traveller

My son is travelling...

To see the world... to broaden his mind...

to experience different cultures...

and to see how many boys you can fit into a cupboard. (Joe is bottom left!)

Saturday 9 October 2010


I always think that ginger is one of those things you either love or hate. There is no indifferent middle ground... and I love it! So when I was staying with my friend Diana last week when I was in Devon and saw there was ginger ice cream on the menu at the local pub I knew I had to try it. It was heavenly!

So on my return home I went out and stocked up on ingredients.

Dug out the old ice cream maker...

and hey presto... ginger ice cream! The brandy snap baskets came out a little odd shaped but all in all it tasted pretty good. Recipe here if you like ginger too.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Paper Lace

After being away in Devon last week (I had a lovely time, thank you ladies of the West Country Embroiderers) and the busy birthday weekend I started this week feeling rather down in the dumps, uninspired and lacking a single creative thought at all. But then a telephone tutorial this morning has got me all fired up again and after a very creative day I've felt inspired to share a little of what I've been working on.

My research into Frida Kahlo led me to looking at colourful mexican embroidery and the use of lace combined with rich colour and pattern. I'd love to wear that Jean Paul Gaultier dress on the top left in the picture above!

This got me started on some paper cutting resulting in the lace like sample above which I used to partially reveal, yet also conceal the floral design underneath. More paper cutting and I started to explore how colour and pattern could give lace a more masculine appearance.

I couldn't resist trying it out as a stencil too.

More sketchbook research led me to looking at corsetry and I was fascinated by the steel orthopaedic corsets dating back to the 16th century, whose cutout designs were very lace like.

Their resemblance to armour makes them quite masculine yet the imagery is very feminine.

This also brought to mind the work of artist Cal Lane whose beautiful cut metalwork has strong masculine form combined with feminine imagery. I'm loving how lace can be so contradictory.

And then I discovered these exquisite paper lace dresses by Rei Kawakubo and once again I was paper cutting.

And this time I painted the "lace" with metallic paints to resemble the armoured metal corsets.

I'm not entirely sure where any of this is leading but at least I'm having fun finding out... and my creative mojo has returned... for today at least! The next two days are going to be spent at the Knitting and Stitching show so maybe see some of you there.

Sunday 3 October 2010

A Special Birthday

It's not always been the easiest eighteen years. And just when it seemed to be getting easier, life threw other obstacles in our way. But today my "baby" celebrated his eighteenth birthday...

and I would just like to say to Jacob, that I think you've grown up to be a lovely young man who makes me proud every day. Life's not always been easy but you come back smiling every time. You are a very special person.

We've had a super day with all of our closest family. Joe was missing as he is in Vietnam but we all spoke to him before lunch via Skype. We've had lots of good food (menu specially chosen by Jacob) which included coffee and walnut cake as well as raspberry pavlova (extra insulin for someone then!) A special birthday, a special day and a very special young man.

Happy Eighteenth Birthday Jake!