Wednesday, 30 July 2014

International Embroidery Day and a Party

Today has been International Embroidery Day in Sweden, Queenie posted about it here:

So, in honour of IED I announce that I have finished my embroidered flower piece from the workshop at Country Roads Quilters and made it up into a table-topper.

Also, I am sharing a beautiful haori that my friend, Ros, received from Ichiroya last week.  It is covered in tiny French knots and is absolutely glorious.  Even the tacking is wonderful!

Today has also been Piglet's birthday.  Sam has his birthday in the depths of winter, not a lot of fun for parties in the garden and so today, Sam is exactly six and a half and we had a Teddy Bears' Picnic for Piglet!  A good time was had by all.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ten Japanese Potters

This is not a good photograph but it does give an impression of the wonderful exhibition I went to see yesterday.

Firstly, I have to thank Tony Orvis, the potter at Unique Cottage Studios for posting on Facebook that he had been to the launch of the exhibition, which had included a tea ceremony and sushi.  That status update led me to searching for Goldmark Gallery and discovering a treasure in the delightful town of Uppingham in the beautiful county of Rutland.  (If I am waxing lyrical and overusing the adjectives here please excuse me but it was a wonderful day out).

In 1919 Bernard Leach met the Japanese potter, Shoji Hamada, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The exhibition of Japanese pottery at Goldmark, focusing on the tea bowl and the tea ceremony, included the work of both the son, Shinsaku Hamada,  and the grandson, Tomoo Hamada,  of Shoji Hamada and also the work of the current Living National Treasure, Jun Isezaki.  The works were set out in a spacious, light gallery on the upper floor and there were no barriers to any items except three by Jun Isezaki which were in a simple glass case.  There were no notices to say "don't touch" and it was tempting but I resisted when I looked at the price list!  It was an interesting exercise to think about these practical, beautiful, everyday items being worth thousands of pounds (and to see how many had a little red dot stuck alongside them, these are obviously very appreciated).

Alan and I wandered around the exhibition of 200 pots at our leisure, returning to our favourites several times.  Interestingly, we both liked the work of the same artist, Tsubusa Kato.  
"TK20.  Chawan.  Porcelain.  Celadon with blue drawing 8.5 x 13.0 £1055" 
does little to sum up the exquisite item we both coveted.

We were given a catalogue and will enjoy looking at that and dreaming of tea bowls.  You can view the exhibition catalogue here and Ten Japanese Potters and a Tea Ceremony is on until 10th August.

In addition to the exhibition, Goldmark Gallery itself was also a delightful find.  The building, on Orange Street in Uppingham, is like a rabbit warren of small galleries, each with something more unexpected and glorious than the previous.  One specialism of the gallery is artist's prints, and having enjoyed the works of Matisse, Warhol, Dali and Picasso at an exhibition in Lincoln's Usher Gallery last year we were enchanted to see works by these artists, and others, available for closer inspection and enjoyment.  They are remarkably affordable, limited print runs, signed by the artist and available for a price that I thought was just for a weekend's loan!!  

I like this quotation from Henri Matisse,

"It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else."

There is also another studio of pottery.  Various potters, working in various ways have combined to produce work the looks wonderful en masse.  It reminded me of natural dyes all working well together.  We had a very long chat with a knowledgeable young lady (sorry, I didn't ask her name) and shared tips about visiting Japan.  We even treated ourselves to two beautiful ash glazed mugs by Somerset-based potter,  Mike Dodd.  After being served coffee in them it would have been too difficult to leave them behind!

Of course, being on a jolly we had to find good food.  Coffee and plain chocolate florentines in a teashop/bakery and later, a fresh and tasty lunch.  Even the journey was a pleasure, through the Lincolnshire and Rutland countryside on a beautiful Summer's day, the sky was blue and the fields were golden and ripe for harvesting.  And all this on the day that my fantastic son became 30 years old, Happy Birthday David, I enjoyed your day!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Thinking Too Much?

Sometimes my blog post are simple journal entries sharing what I've been doing in my life with my family, my everyday life, my textile life or my globetrotting life. Sometimes they respond to something another blogger has posted. Just once in a while they get all philosophical, this is one of those occasions.

My last post showed photographs of my progress on the embroidery piece I started in a workshop last week. Local Julie, Julie in Japan, Blandina and Queenie all commented on the post which contrasted that embroidery with the stitching on the prayer flags I have been making. Their comments, in praise of one style of stitching or the other set me thinking. I was working on the intricate embroidery this morning, hoping to get this flower finished before it got too warm and muggy to sew and wondering why I wasn't enjoying it, even though it was going well….

My friends and family would describe me, in degrees ranging from affection to exasperation, as “a leader”, “OCD”, “a control freak”, “rigid”, “controlling”, “an organiser”, “bossy”; you get the idea!!

This view of me seems to contrast completely with the projects I am currently enjoying in textiles, the eco-dyeing, the prayer flags, the boro-style pieces, and would rather seem to suit the accurate, precise embroidery project.

But I love the prayer flags and am not enjoying the embroidery.

If the embroidery was going badly I can imagine that I would dismiss it as “not for me”. By declaring it not my thing I would avoid having to admit that I wasn't very good at it, that, heaven forbid, I had “failed”.

If I could conjure precise colours and designs from the eco-dyeing cauldron (oh, how I wish I had a cauldron, but the preserving pan is doing the job) and if I made the prayer flags and boro pieces geometrically accurate then I think they would suit my controlling character trait.

I don't want predictable colours, if I did I could use chemical Procion dyes.

I don't want mini “Round the World” or “9 Patch” design prayer flags and quilts in indigo, all accurate squares and nice, neat seams all meeting at the right place.

I don't want embroidery stitches that look as if they could have been done on a machine (okay, so I'm not THAT good).

So, the conclusion I reached, while doing those tiny chain stitches, is that textiles are probably my safety valve.  I can be led by the fabric and the stitches rather than controlling them, I am surprised by the results from the natural dyes and can't regulate them and my pieces are fluid and relaxed, not rigid. The me who works with textiles is my

alter ego |ˌaltər ˈɛgəʊ, ˌɒlt-, ˈiːg-|
noun ( pl. alter egos )
a person's secondary or alternative personality.
• an intimate and trusted friend.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: Latin, ‘other self’.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Reveal 1

Onion skins and Eucalyptus leaves on vintage kimono silk.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Where Did That Week Go?

I've noticed that more than one blog I follow has a post called something like, "Where did the week go?" so maybe it's not just me.

The weather has been erratic and we've had to make the most of the dry times to be in the garden and the wet times to do things indoors.  When it's been dry it's been hot and humid, not ideal for any work.

I have been stitching, however, and I have been dyeing.  Tuesday was an embroidery workshop at Country Roads Quilters and I was pleased with my progress.  I blogged about the preparation for this workshop here and now I can share some actual stitching.  It was useful to learn a few tips to keep stitches regular and even but it wasn't the sort of stitching I usually do.

This is more like my usual stitching:
I've just completed this prayer flag for my DS, David, who will be 30 next week. (I know, where did those years go?)

A parcel from George Weil arrived so I mordanted a lot of fabric in preparation for when the urge to dye strikes me, or when I find some wonderful potential dye material.  Exactly that happened earlier in the week when DD, Sara, gave me some eucalyptus prunings.  The mordanted cloth wasn't ready so I made silk bundles and steamed them, this is at the beginning, here's hoping…
I've also been on the computer for many hours this week but not reading blogs, nor writing posts, not even on Facebook or reading emails very much.  I'm trying to co-ordinate a "summit" for some of the members of my Global Piecers swap group.  It seems as if six of us, and our other halves, will be able to get together next Summer so, hopefully, there will be more on that later, we're hoping for a fest of sewing, eating, laughing, talking, exploring and shopping!

Whatever you do this weekend, I wish you a good one, and I hope next week goes a little more slowly!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Rainbow and a Beautiful Find

Today has been a beautiful day so I wandered around the garden and tried to make a rainbow:

This morning DH and I went for a mooch around our local town of Horncastle.  We haven't been there for a while and were delighted to find it seemed to be thriving, full of people, some new and interesting shops and today, being Saturday, there was also a market plus some craft stalls.  Horncastle is known for the many antique shops there and so we had a look in a few, not for anything in particular but just to see if anything caught our eye.  In a junk rather than antique shop my eye was caught by an unused preserving pan, ideal for dyeing as the aluminium will add a bit to the mordant and I won't mix my dyeing pans up with the cooking pans!  I also found a linen shirt/jacket that fitted nicely and was crying out to come home with me.  Al bought two cut glass whisky tumblers, made by Royal Doulton and a snip at £5.  Those times would have made it a successful mooch, plus the delicious lunch we had in the local Italian restaurant, but I also found this:

Sorry for the poor photograph, I was trying to avoid a reflection of me (and didn't succeed completely). 

It's a watercolour and dated '38, 1938 I assume, and was labelled as "Oriental Village Scene".  The bamboo forest in the background is so reminiscent of the land surrounding the farm in Fujino where I stayed with my Indigo Sisters on the Japanese Textile Study Tour and the detail in the painting is delightful.  I don't know where in the "Orient" the village is, neither did the seller obviously, nor do I mind.  It was a case of having to take it home (and it wasn't very expensive). The frame is rather lovely too, a bit of damage and it's rather grubby but that all adds to the charm in my opinion.  The painting is currently hanging in my sewing room, awaiting a more perfect spot but at least I can admire it where it is.
A little stitching now while DH cooks dinner (aren't I lucky?), I am making another prayer flag for another special birthday coming up.  I hope you're all having a lovely weekend too.

Friday, 11 July 2014

So True

This image was posted by Aurifil on Facebook today, I thought you might appreciate it for the weekend.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Dyed and Untied

My bundle unwrapped, rinsed out but not ironed and my gorgeous rainbow thread. 
Today I'm trying with these flowers, field and Californian poppies...

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Two Workshops

I wrote in my last post about the needle felting workshop I had enjoyed, here is the result of my homework. 
I felted the base using wool onto hessian during the workshop, with the aim of creating a "seascape" feel to my piece, and then got carried away with embellishment once I was home. 
As you can see I have added beads and buttons and done quite a lot of stitching. I backed the work with a piece of calico to give it a little more body but mainly to give it a smooth feel as I intended the piece to be a cuff. 
Here it is on, with the large buttons making the fastening with ribbon loops on the opposite end. I'm pleased with it and it is comfortable to wear although a little but of me thinks cuffs should come in pairs!

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of joining friends old and new at Fenland Textile Studios and doing a workshop with Angela about natural dyeing. I did a little "Eco Dyeing" in Japan with Nat and have had various attempts myself, some successful, like my rose petal dye, others less successful, it was time to get things right. 
The studio was more like a witches' coven meeting than a textile workshop, in fact more than one lady expressed the desire for a cauldron!  We brewed up a variety of natural materials: barks, leaves, flowers, gathered locally, and a few obtained from commercial suppliers.
We dyed with and without mordanting our cloth and thread and our washing line became a veritable rainbow, with labels!
Of course we had time for a tasty lunch, in the sunshine. 
During the afternoon we made further spells, which Angela referred to as bundles. Dyestuffs were wrapped around a large pebble
which was then tied up securely and the whole bundle was boiled up, with the water being changed each time it became difficult to see the bundles. The buttons are purely for identification!
My bundle is now sitting in a glass jar on the kitchen windowsill while I try very hard to resist opening it up for at least a few more days. All in all a great day, loads learned, super reference collection of samples (to be made into a book? quilt/wall hanging?), lots of tips and loads of laughs. Thanks everyone. 

Finally, today's photo of the local wildlife - these baby swallows in their nest. There are five squeezed in there!