With so much choice these days it's good to sometimes go back to basics and keep it simple and this week in the Studio we did just that!
Last week when I was up in London I popped into a large well known art shop with the intention of buying a few bits and pieces as a treat for Terry and I to use in the Studio. There was so much choice and I felt overwhelmed; In the end I left empty handed.
With so much choice these days it's good to sometimes go back to basics and keep it simple and this week in the Studio we did just that!
As you can see - I gave the Inspiration to Stitch students a selection of mark making tools - all three of them: half a wooden tongue depressor, half a lolly stich and half a cosmetic bud plus 3 inks - Quink writing ink, a drawing ink and Indian Ink; in any colour they wanted - as long as it was black.
At first the mark making was safe
It’s a useful skill to be able to draw on all different scales and this exercise will help you expand your drawing to fill the page – whatever the size!
You will need:
Before you start, spend a few minutes looking at the item you have chosen to draw – look at its overall shape, its relationship to other items on the table and/or the back ground etc
Regular readers of the blog will know that a couple of weeks ago I'd tried, and got waylaid, to see the Tate Modern's new exhibition on weaver Anni Albers. However, a dreary Monday this week was a good a day as any to rectify this so I hopped the train up to London and visit the exhibition; in fact it was the perfect day (trains cancelations not withstanding) because Monday afternoons in mid November look to be very quiet days in Tate Modern.
I spent 5 years learning to weaving when I lived in Finland in the 1990's; rugs, runners, bags and wall hangings, I've had a crack at them all, and one of my hand woven bags is still in regular use 25 years on! Last Christmas I also very lucky to received Anni Albers' seminal book, On Weaving (confession: I look at the photographs rather than read the words...)and so I was more than a little intrigued to see how Tate Modern would portray this artist and her work.
The first thing to note is that this isn't just an exhibition of Anni Albers' work but rather an examination of her process as a designer, artist and teacher. It charts the way she transformed weaving from the domestic to a medium for art, design and architecture.
Anni Albers had enrolled as a student at the Bauhaus, Germany in the 1920's and after a general preliminary course was required to chose a specialised workshop. But despite the ideals of equality at the Bauhaus, women were not actively encourage to join some classes, however weaving became a popular class for women, so much so it became known as 'the women's workshop'. Anni Albers said that she 'went into weaving unenthusiastically, as merely the least objectionable choice' but 'gradually threads caught my imagination'.
When I read that I knew instantly what she meant: a passion born.
Not Anni's loom, but a replica and just like the one I used to learn how to weave. To see what is involved watch this short video, How to weave like Anni Albers made by the Tate in collaboration with weaver Rosa Pearks.
The designs for weaving needed to be meticulously planned and calculated before the loom could be warped with the required number and colours of threads. These grid-like designs were painted in water colour using four or more different tones and were exercises in colour theory.
Artist, Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus but Anni Albers said that she was more influenced by his paintings than by his teaching! Following Klee's exercises in composition and colour and tonal variation combined with his mixing of layers of watercolour on paper influenced Albers's own designs.
I was so taken by these studies made on the typewriter (remember those??!) that once home I was straight upstairs rummaging around until I found my ancient one, blew the dust off and started pounding the keys.
Now there's an exercise workout for the fingers; quite forgotten how much effort is required to thump the keys down. Oddly satisfying though, it has to be noted... Now, where can I get a new ribbon from?
Unlike so many exhibitions these days, photograph was allowed in this exhibition so it's very tempting to wander around snapping away. But here's my advice: if you only have the one chance to visit the exhibition, put the camera/phone away: weaving isn't a process to be rushed and neither is this exhibition. Take the time to explore Anni's creative world, marvel at her use of colour and development of techniques
and then sit in quiet contemplation of the Ark Panels woven by her in 1962 for Temple B'nai Israel, Woonsocket, Rhode Island. After all, you'll need all the stillness and calm you can get before the madness that is Christmas arrives next month!
Besides which, there's plenty of merchandise outside the backdoor waiting to tempt you. Alternatively why not ask Father Christmasoppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppl (heee, hee, hee: Betty cat has just jumped on the keyboard to embrace her inner Anni....) for a Tate membership so you can visit this and many other exhibitions (in all the Tate Galleries up and down the country) as many times as you want, without booking or queuing?
The Anni Albers exhibition is on from now until 27th January. See you there (again!)
Hazel & Terry
Wednesday was such a beautiful day here at the Studio that we decided to have a 'walking meeting' instead of sitting in the studio
so on went the boots and down the lane we went...
It probably won't come as much of a surprise to some of you, but a 2014 study by Stanford University in the US has shown that people are much more creative when they are walking around as opposed to when they are sitting still.
It's also one of the reasons why we encourage students to stand up to work and why, after lunch on a Textile Adventures workshop we suggest everyone goes outside for a 10 - 15 minute walk; besides which it gives us time to clear lunch away!
The walk was also an excellent opportunity to look for line inspiration for us to use in a monoprinting session we've planned for ourselves later in the week.
From the twist and knots of barbed wire,
the concentric circles on a felled tree
and this year's growth on the hedge
to the stark outlines of the cow parsley seed heads
and the prickly cones of teasels.
And if you've ever visited us (or plan to do so in 2019!) this is why we always tell you to ignore the ever helpful Satnav and follow our instructions to avoid ending up at/in the ford, which is along the road from the studio!
Hazel & Terry
Does this happen to you? You finally admit it’s now autumn, cold enough to warrant a proper coat being worn, and on putting a hand in the pocket you find your fingers caressing one of last year’s conkers. You then also realise it’s time to start lashing on the hand-cream and wearing gloves - looking at my dry hand I realise I should have started that regime a while ago!
This week Debbie Lyddon has been teaching her Exploring Place workshop in the studio and one of the things students have been doing is collecting and recording things found on their local morning walk.
Outside the studio there are huge oak trees so there are plenty of acorns,
down the lane pheasant feathers were found
and, of course, conkers were everywhere!
But what to do with all these things we collect?
Debbie has made a series of vessels
While the grasses were twisted and woven into a series of small balls.
Terry walks and collects too, usually by the sea.
Usually, Terry records what she finds, such as the lovely sea glass above.
But, sometimes Terry isn't able to actually 'collect' the items she finds, like the beautiful ammonite pavement on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis. That's where carrying a camera and a small sketchbook comes in handy and back in the studio she was able to do a series of studies on paper, from which a thermofax screen was made. The quilt, above right, shows where this screen was used to discharge a piece of hand dyed fabric.
The line of oyster shells were 'drawn-without-looking' and eventually became a free motion quilting design which Terry has used several times, above is Walking on the beach and below they feature on one of the long Narrative: walking strips.
Look carefully and you will find other images of collected items!
More of Terry's work can be found on her website.
Are you a collector of random 'stuff'? If you are do tell us what you collect and how you use it in your creative practice.
Hazel & Terry
Yesterday it was 24 degrees in my garden and as I sat in the beautiful autumnal sunshine eating a salad lunch, after a morning spent gardening, it felt like summer could go on forever.
How deluded was I.
Today has been cold, damp and quite frankly miserable. True, Saturday looks a bit perkier, but there’s no denying, autumn is definitely on its way. Not before long some may say, but I have so loved these long warm summer days. Now it’s time to move back indoors and start thinking about some serious stitching projects.
After the flurry (and I have to note, some success) of the three quilts I made earlier this year (if you missed them you can read all about then here, here and here!) I've been a bit lax on the sewing front it has to be said: too many cycling adventures, a lot of gardening, getting ready, setting up and taking InStitches to shows, and the knitting of socks (yes...really, doesn't everyone?!)
Also taxing my brain was a certain tell-tale line slowly rising up my study wall. It certainly has put a dampener (#allpunsintended) on creative thought - take a look...
How can such a 'tiny' leak create so much havoc?
The whole of my study has spent weeks in the garage,
Harry and Betty have been, quite rightly, flummoxed at times.
But the plasterers finished today. Now there's 'just' a new floor, woodwork and full decorating to go and finally I shall have my study back. THEN I can begin creative work - surely??
True, I could have, of course, gone up to my workroom. But as you can see, the state of affairs in there isn't much better. In fact it's worse - only I can sort that mess out (actually, that's what happening, we all know you have to be messy in order to tidy up - don't we?)
I know I also have a whole studio to play in...but quite frankly over the summer it hasn't looked that great in there either...if we'd been burgled I think they would have felt duty bound to tidy up for us!
The new studio is progressing slowly, despite all the edible brides and encouragement. But all good things come to those who wait... (note: this picture was taken a few weeks ago and there's been a lot of activity - you'll just have to trust me on that one!)
So there's nothing for it, I can't procrastinate anymore; no more excuses, I'm going to have to do what I'm always telling our students to do: get the sketchbook/workbook out, set an intention, make some notes and start exploring! I just need to begin... Carpe diem!
Hazel & Terry
Dutch orange, saffron, amber, ginger, minium and nude. Coral, terracotta, peach, apricot and tangerine. Call it what you will, orange was described by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) as 'warm red, intensified by a suitable yellow'.
But I've had a love-hate relationship with the colour orange most of my life - is it because I'm a child of the 70's I wonder? Just like with blue cheese, red wine and olives though, as I've grown older I'm finding myself, however, willing to dabble with the odd flash of orange every now and then.
It's autumn here in the UK, and at this time of year there's a lot of orange about, as Terry found when she visited Forde Abbey in Somerset to see the pumpkin and squash harvest ripening in the sunshine.
Here in Hampshire the garden still has plenty of colour, with orange coloured flowers, leaves and berries galore.
The colour orange is named after the fruit, which was probably first cultivated in China before spreading west across the world. In Sanskrit it is narangah, naranja in Spanish, orenge in French and of course orange in English; but it wasn't until sometime during the sixteenth century that orange was used as a name for the colour, up until then English speakers referred to yellow-red (geoluhread).
Orange is a secondary colour, sitting between red and yellow and above brown in the colour wheel and seems forever in danger of sliding one way or another and often down below. Until relatively recently, no doubt due to the advent of digital mixing, it was difficult for the colour to appear 'pure' and in its own right.
When paired with blue, its complimentary colour from across the colour wheel, the colour scheme is zingy and never dull - although I don't think the Buddhist monks were concerned at all about that when they hung their freshly washed robes out to dry in the court yard underneath the blue shutters!
Just look at the stunning colour scheme of this traditional wooden house on the island of Suomalinna, just a short ferry trip from Helshinki, Finland
and again here on a canal side tin shack of a shop in Kerela, India.
Orange cloth, often associated with Hinduism and which would have originally been dyed with saffron, has been worn in parts of India for over 2000 years. The Hindu festival of Holi to celebrate the coming of spring sees children and young people throwing coloured paints everywhere. Originally the colour orange would have come from natural plant-based sources such as turmeric but nowadays it is increasingly a water-based commercial pigment; and hopefully washable!
From the cheerful orange marigolds piled high on rugs laid out on the roadside, rows of bright orange plastic jugs strung across a market stall to the huge namaste hand gesture of greeting on the terminal wall in Delhi airport - the colour orange is everywhere across India.
It's in many other far eastern countries too as I found out last year, as I cycled around Myanmar- it is also the traditional colour of Buddhist monks' robes.
Festive, fun, happy and joyful. Optimistic, balanced, ambitious and energetic. Always flamboyant, warm enthusiastic and generous, vibrant, expansive and organic: orange is a versatile colour.
It's the national colour of The Netherlands and their royal family is the house of Orange-Nassu; in Thailand it is the symbol of Thursday.
And it's the colour of a perfect sunset.
So let's raise a glass, perhaps a Seville Gin garnished with a slice of fresh orange?, and toast the colour orange - have a happy weekend!
Hazel & Terry
If you went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC or The South West Quilt and Textile Show in Bristol you may have joined us on one of our ‘take two stitches’ workshops, where we explored the potential of just two stitches - the straight stitch and a French knot.
This lady enjoyed the class in 2017 and had brought her sampler with her this year to show me and to buy some more of our thread so she could finish it. When I asked her what it was she had enjoyed so much she said it was having the encouragement to start and the inspiration to continue; she enjoyed the slow rhythm and peace that hand stitching brings.
Terry also enjoys hand stitching and often combines it with machine stitch and this year two of my quilts featured dense hand stitching.
My Contemporary Quilt ‘InPrint’ entry ‘Pink Floyd, this way’ and
my entry for The Fine Art Quilt Master, ‘the space between the moments’ both featured a lot of freestyle cross stitch to build up layers of texture to suggest a decaying old wall (Pink Floyd) and pine trees and snow ( Moments). Like the lady who came to show me her sampler, I too find this type of hand stitching very contemplative and soothing: I have to slow my mind and develop a different rhythm.
Through the winter evenings I can sometimes even be found knitting woolly socks on 4 bamboo needles - got to have something pretty to keep those toes warm! Knitting is rhymical and soothing too - and given their size I have a good chance of finishing them as well!
I always like to keep some hand stitching on the go as well, this little blue study was done on a piece of vintage table linen. Can you spot the exquisite darn in the middle? It was that which inspired me to join in with #1yearofstitches2017 over on Instagram.
I kept the daily hand stitching up for a good few months, even as I cycled round the Mekong Delta and Myanmar. Obviously not while I was actually cycling, but when I was having my restorative G&T in the evening! I always mean to keep an art journal when I go off on my adventures but some how it never happens, but last year the stitching did. Secretly in my room at first (I didn’t know what my fellow travellers would think) but then down in the bar and at the dinner table whilst we were waiting. I needn’t have worried - everyone was fascinated and as the days went by the whole group were keen to ensure not one event went unrecorded in stitch! By the time I came home I had a whole stitched account of my 3 week adventure on two wheels.
This autumn the socks are coming along at a pace so I’m thinking that I’ll need another hand stitch project. I don't have a quilt on the go at the moment, but like a pianist I need to keep up with my daily practice, so I’ve looked out some stitch books for inspiration,
collected my hand sewing equipment,
and started to select my threads. I thinking a piece of vintage table cloth or maybe some old linen for the fabric, I’ll need to have a rummage through my stash in the morning.
Or I might continue stitching on this. I put this together a couple of years ago from an off cut of wool wadding and some of our cotton fabric from the studio. It’s a couple of metres long already, so I could piece on another section and carry on! I intended it as a stitch sampler, a place to try out new combinations and threads, but sometimes I struggle to come up with something different.
Which is why I’m really excited to be welcoming Richard McVetis into the InStitches Studio this autumn. Richard is a British artist known for his meticulously embroidered drawings and sculptures and his artistic practice centres on his training as an embroiderer through the use of traditional hand stitch techniques and mark making.
If you feel inspired to pick up needle, thread and fabric why not come and join us on the 12th and 13th November? If you want to know more about the two days then take a look at the workshop Richard has planned for us. All you need to bring is your hand sewing kit - all the other materials are provided as well as homemade biscuits with morning coffee, a delicious light seasonal lunch and a pot of tea and a slice of homemade cake before you head off home after a day of creative stitching. What are you waiting for? Come and join us, I for one can't wait!
Hazel & Terry
We both produce our own unique fabric to use in our quilt making. It’s all about the total ownership and freedom that comes with the creative process; we have a piece of white fabric, dye it, print it, remove some colour and then add even more: we take the cloth and make it our own. No two pieces are the same and often the results aren’t quite how we planned, but that’s okay - over the years we’ve learnt to embrace the serendipity that comes from working with the bucket and bench.
Each summer we move the dyeing process outdoors and into the sunshine - and yes, the sun does always shine on an indigo day! Indigo dyeing - pure alchemy. Back in July I blogged about our latest indigo day (missed it? Take a look here) so this week I thought I’d show you what I’ve been sewing with one of the pieces we created.
See the honey comb piece on the left? That’s a full width half metre piece of shrunk cotton, which we rolled up along a piece of chunky cotton string and pulled up tight until it resembled a hair scrunchy. A couple of dips in the indigo vat and that’s the cloth you get! Super easy, super fast...and super fabric!
So what did I make with it?
Each summer, as we cut, roll and label the fabric for our stand at Festival of Quilts I always say ‘next year I’m going to sew something to wear out of some of our fabric’. If you’ve ever visited us on our stand you’ll know I never had.....until this year! Yes, we have been (worryingly) so organised that everything is cut, folded, bagged and boxed ahead of schedule that I’ve had time to sew a top!
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen that over last year or so I’ve come back to dress making with some summer dresses for me
and last year a couple of fiendishly tricky 1930’s evening dresses for my daughter - definitely a labour of love!
I didn’t attempt anything as complex for the indigo fabric but chose a simple top using a pattern I’d bought when we were at thread last month at Farnham Maltings, from our friend Viv of Purple Stitches.
I thought it was a great pattern to showcase some of our indigo fabrics! Its also got just 3 pattern pieces!
Multi sized with a couple of length options and printed on good quality paper - so much easier and more robust than the flimsy tissue paper the bigger pattern companies use. Cut out in a flash (does help that the InStitches studio has lovely large, height adjustable tables !) and sewn in a couple of hours
I like a lined yoke and if you go onto the pattern website there’s pattern options and videos to show you how. No excuses really!
I’ve made 3 already! So what does the indigo one look like? Take a look...
I’m really please with it. If you want to see how it looks on then do be sure to stop by and say hello, we’re on stand QIA15 next week at the Festival of Quilts - I could just be wearing it! And you never know - Terry might even have her's cut out and sewn up in time...
Hazel & Terry
I’ve been on Auntie duty this week and my three nieces are all dedicated creative play girls – paper and pencils, cutting and crafting and glitter - lots of it, everywhere. And now, care of the 12 year old, this summer will feature slime production on an epic scale– don’t ask, just Google it!
But have you ever watched young children when given a selection of paper and coloured pencils/ empty boxes and glue/ scissors and a bag of fabric scraps - there’s no hanging back! They’re straight in and off into their own creative world, making up drawn stories, building the next generation of intergalactic space craft or crafting clothes for teddy. To them they are just having fun, seeing what they can do, enjoying themselves: there’s no ‘I can’t draw’, ‘I’m no good at…’ or ‘I don’t do art’.
Why should the little people have all the fun? Our mission is to create courses for people who love stitched textiles, design and sketchbooks: we want to inspire you to a more creative life! However we know that not everyone can come on one of our year long courses and we also know sometimes it can be difficult to get started – you know the story: everyone wants a piece of your time, there’s nowhere to call your own creative space, you can’t summon up the energy.
So, how can we help? Well, we thought we’d share some of our simple creative warm-ups with you: see if we can tickle those creative juices, point you in the right direction or at least delay the ironing mountain for 10 more minutes. Go on, join in – you never know where it might take you!
Drawing without looking
We both love this warm-up and use it frequently with our students. It’s a great way to improve your observation skills.
For this you will need a large sheet of paper – about A3 size, a couple of pens, one thin-nibbed and one thick (we like Sharpie markers, but remember they can go through the paper!), a few things to draw – keep them simple everyday items eg, banana, mug, pen, your hand etc.
Without looking at your pen or your paper, use your eyes to “trace” the edges of the object, while, at the same time, using your pen to draw the outline in a steady, continuous line.
Don't look at your paper, and don't lift your pen!
Your drawing probably won’t look anything like the object. That’s okay! However you’ll find that if you repeat the exercise several times (no need for a new piece of paper, turn your page around, over or upside down!) you’ll find your accuracy improves – you may even recognise the object you’ve drawn!
If you give it a go do write us a comment and let us know how you got on!
Hazel & Terry
Welcome to our blog! Here you'll find out what's been going on, plus plenty of ideas and inspiration and the odd cake recipe!
Check back often to see what we're up to - it's great to have you along
Hazel & Terry