Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Machine Embroidery Workshop at The Eden Workshop: January 2018

Work in progress during the workshop

Last year I ran a couple of Machine Embroidery and Applique workshops at the lovely Eden Workshop in Plumpton, just outside Penrith. It's a lovely place, Jane has made it feel really welcoming and cosy but the work space is light and airy at the same time. I like running workshops here as it has a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere and Jane makes sure everyone is well looked after. She runs a whole range of workshops so if you're looking to try a new craft or art technique I'd recommend you have a look at her website. 

The view when I arrived

About half an hour later the snow started

I'd been a little bit nervous in the morning as the weather forecast wasn't great and driving isn't my favourite thing but I arrived safely and was enjoying a nice cup of coffee when the snow started coming down. The day before I had been moaning because we almost never get snow in Carlisle and I love snow, unless I have to drive in it so it's true what they say; be careful what you wish for! Fortunately everyone arrived safely and by the time the workshop finished there was barely a trace of snow but at one point it really was coming down so thick and fast you could barely see.  

Practising embroidery with the sewing machine

Creative mess
My trusty Bernina 

Despite the challenging weather first thing we had a productive and enjoyable day. The workshop is based around the way I create my bird portraits and uses simple applique and machine embroidery to build up an image. It's a great way to get to know your sewing machine and we spent most of the morning practising using the machine as a drawing tool. I always find this bit of the workshop really interesting as I like seeing how different machines cope and figuring out how to adjust them if they're not behaving. The best machines for this type of embroidery are the really basic mechanical models, the fancy computerised ones have so many different possible adjustments that they usually take the longest to get set up and performing. I use my trusty Bernina that my Granny gave me, it's solid and weighs a ton and is a great deal older than me but stitches beautifully! 

Work in progress

Work in progress

Work in progress

Once everyone was reasonably confident with embroidering with their machines we started to create our designs. This bit is really fun as you can play around with different fabrics to get the effect you want. I usually just choose one or two sections to applique and use embroidery to add detail and bring all the parts of my design together. I had several templates for people to use and one person had brought her own design as she wanted to create a Staffie. We used fusible webbing to hold the appliqued fabric in place as it makes the stitching so much easier. Once all the fabric had been bonded in place it was time to start stitching! 

Work in progress

Work in progress

Almost finished

This is the part where peoples individual creativity really has a chance to shine. Even when people use the same templates they always come out differently as each person has their way of putting things together and stitching is a bit like hand writing-everyone's is a bit different. I'm always so impressed with what people create, I love that I can show people something and they can take it and make it their own, creating something unique to them. One of the people on the workshop today had done the same course with me last year but since then had got a new machine so wanted to have another go. As with everyone on the course it was great to see her confidence grow throughout the day and I hope everyone went away pleased with what they'd created and keen to carry on.

Finished piece

Finished piece
 
Finished piece (detail)

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Life Drawing 9.1.18

Black felt tip pen, continuous line

A New Year and some new Life Drawing sessions! I was looking back over my pictures from last year and realised that we had the same model in January 2017 as we did this evening. This is no bad thing as I always enjoy drawing this evenings model and am generally quite pleased with how my work turns out. He's very confident and solid and somehow I find that translates into my drawings, I want to use strong bold lines and just go for it.

Felt tip pen, blind drawing

Felt tip pen, continuous line

Felt tip pen, continuous line

I did have a minor tragedy, I only had one of my favourite drawing pens (where on earth have they all gone? I had loads) and this ran out before the end of the session. However, I did have a lot of fun drawing with felt tips, I really like the way it glides across the page and the strong bold lines it creates. I'm not sure I'd like to draw all of my models with these pens but they were perfect for this evening and I felt like it got me out of a bit of a rut.

Blind drawing

Very fine fine liner

Blind drawing

I also went back to my sticking multiple sheets of paper together approach as I seem to be incapable of fitting a body on one piece of paper. I really enjoyed the expanding drawing and actually spent over twenty minutes on one drawing, which for me is a long time. I think for the first time ever I wanted slightly longer poses as I was really focused and intent on my drawings. Maybe that's what I'll do next session, which I suspect will please the other artists who say that five minutes is not long enough for a drawing!

Blind drawing

Blind drawing

Blind drawing

It was also good to see the other artists after the Christmas break. As usual I was tired from work and could quite happily have gone home and gone to sleep but seeing everyone and getting into my drawing really energised me and I felt very positive at the end of the session.

Felt tip pen, continuous line

Continuous line

Continuous line

Blind drawing

If you'd like to receive information about upcoming sessions please click on the Life Drawing tab above and subscribe to my list.

Continuous line


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Creative Beginings


The Dark and the Light, 2018

As in previous years (see here and here) I decided to start the year creatively by making a postcard for Surface Gallery's annual International Postcard Show.  I really like this project at the start of the year as it's small and achievable so I can begin the year with that cathartic sense of having finished something!

The Dark and the Light, 2018
Detail

Last years postcard
ended being a bit of a turning point for me, it gave me the confidence to pursue a way of making I'd been dabbling with and have ended up developing a lot over the last year. It's also one of the first pieces I felt confident enough to write about more openly in terms of meaning rather than just techniques.

Feather, 2018

This years postcards continue my feather drawing explorations and use of collage. I've been doing a lot of drawing on tracing paper as I like to exploit the transparent qualities and both postcards feature feathers drawn on tracing paper, one of which I've used 'wrong' side up. For the collage I've used some of my handmade paper as well as bits of gold paper and my handmade silk paper.

Feather, 2018
Detail

The first postcard is called 'The Dark and the Light' and reflects my interest in contrasts and dichotomies. There are two sides to every story so they say and it's good to know both sides before making any judgements or decisions. The second postcard is simply titled 'Feather' and features a single feather embellished with hand embroidery. I'm a bit sad we've left 2017 and moved into 2018 because the number 7 is a heck of a lot easier to stitch than an eight. And on that philosophical bombshell I shall leave you, until next time...

Stitched signature

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Even more Sketchbook making shennanigans

Assorted books made by members of Myriad Studio group

One of the things I enjoy about running workshops is the challenge of adapting what I'm teaching to suit my audience. Back in November I got to run my Inventive Sketchbooks workshop twice in one week but for two quite different audiences. The first one was for Myriad Studio art group, led by artist Katarina Prior and based at Eden Arts in Penrith and the second was at Carlisle Youth Zone for the Junior club (ages 7-12.) Two quite different audiences...

Looking at samples

Choosing papers

Choosing papers

The Myriad Studio session was a lot of fun but also really quite relaxed. Everyone was an adult and had come not just to learn something but for the social and therapeutic benefits of art making too. There were also a few people I knew who'd been on some of my other workshops which was lovely. It was a very friendly group and I was able to run the session in a very laid back, informal way, taking people through the process step by step and helping when needed but mostly just chatting! It's lovely working with groups like this, it hardly feels like work at all and I often get to have a bit of a play myself.

Creative chaos!

Creative chaos!

Creative chaos!

In contrast the session at the Youth Zone was what you might call action packed! I really enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun and I was lucky to have some fantastic staff supporting me but I was also very tired at the end of the session. We were busy all evening, the workshop was run on a drop in basis and we had so many children come and join in which was really good. There's often an interesting dynamic with workshops with energy going back and forth between leaders and participants; for this session it was high energy the whole evening and so by the end of the night I was ready to drop.

Finished books...

Finished books...

Finished books...

It's very different working with adults and children and I get a lot out of working with both groups, I like the differences and adapting what I'm doing and how I approach things for each different groups. One of the things that I love about working with people in general is being able to light that creative spark; whether it's showing someone who's already very competent a new way of doing something and sending them on new creative path or seeing a child genuinely proud of what they've been able to create with me. Sometimes I look at my schedule and think I must be insane but other times I look at what I actually do in that crazy schedule and realisle how much I love it how lucky I am to be able to do this.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Reviews and Resolutions

Mull of Galloway, my birthday weekend away this year

It's that time again to reflect and think about the year that's been and the one that's to come. I've just re-read my post from last year and it's interesting reading how I felt then compared to now and also what I remembered writing compared to what I did write. It was a positive post and after looking back on it I think that overall I've carried that positivity through 2017 and more or less stuck to my aims/resolutions.

Drawings from Inktober 2017

Drawings from Inktober 2017

Drawings from Inktober 2017

One of my aims was to prioritise my personal creativity and I think I've done that pretty well this year. I've taken part in several creative challenges over on Instagram including a 100 Days challenge (do a creative thing each day for 100 days), Inktober (an ink drawing everyday in October, following a series of prompts) and Make it Christmas (a different creative textile challenge each day in November.) These challenges help keep the focus on creativity, offer new perspectives (sometimes I hated the prompts but they made me think!) and give a good reason to do something everyday. I also found they encouraged me to try new things and helped me not to get stuck in a creative rut. Although I found it hard to keep going through the challenges I also found I missed them when I'd finished and it's very satisfying looking back and seeing the project as a whole. Yet another benefit is that it brings you into contact with other creative people and can spark some really interesting exchanges. I'm going to start off 2018 with another challenge, the 64 Million Artists creative challenge for January. Why not join me?

Felted vessel, made as a birthday present for a friend

Feathers collected on holiday

Beautiful big skies on Westray

I also had a good creative year with my personal practice, showing my work in an exhibition with Daniel Cooper entitled 'Sky High' at Farfiled Mill this autumn and being selected for the 'Draw the Line' exhibition at Surface Gallery, Nottigham in April. I've been experimenting with different media and developing ideas and techniques, including natural dyeing and paper making (inspired by running some paper making workshops for Prism Arts.) My exhibition 'As the Crow Flies' at RSPB Geltsdale which ended in the early part of this year was an important 'kickstarter' for me and helped give me the confidence I needed to move my work forward. I've also been writing about my work more here on my blog as I've got more confident and I've found that very satisfying and useful for reflection. I'm going to be exhibiting at RSPB Geltsdale again in 2018, this time with my partner Nick Robinson who'll be sharing some of his poems. I'm really looking forward to our show 'Wingspan' which will open on 25th February. I've started a newsletter too this year so if you want to keep up to date with my news and exhibitions the subscription link is just under my profile.

Natural Dyeing: Solar Dye jars

Exhibition poster

Work in progress

Like all years 2017 has had it's highs and lows; the last three months have been quite stressful and even more busy than usual. I've taken on a new role as Lead Visual Artist at Prism Arts which is really exciting and I'm enjoying it but it is also quite challenging and different, it's taking me a while to adjust! It also means that I'm 'properly' employed 4 days a week now, squeezing my already limited personal practice time even further. However, as with all things it's a question of balance and I'm confident that in 2018 I'll manage to tweak the balance a bit more effectively. I've run lots of interesting workshops this year including sessions at RSPB Geltsdale and the lovely Eden Workshop in Plumpton. I really love running workshops so part of my balancing act is ensuring I have time to run them and enjoy them.

Bird portraits workshop at RSPB Geltsdale

Machine Embroidery workshop at The Eden Workshop

Paper making workshop for Prism Arts Studio Theatre West Coast group

In last years post I wrote about the increasing importance of the natural world to my personal and professional life. This is something I've continued to recognise, embrace and enjoy. We had a great week up in the Orkney Isles in May which resulted in several pieces of work and which is still inspiring me, along with our other holidays and days out in the wilds. My garden has been a riot of colour this year and using the plants I've grown to dye with has been a very rewarding experience and something I want to continue to work with.

The river Caldew, near our house

Tufted ducks at Talkin Tarn

Beautiful moss at the Wood of Cree

My second aim for 2017 was to live a more local, kinder life. After the madness of 2016 politics I felt I had to withdraw from that world as it made me feel so useless, ineffective and upset. I decided to focus my energies on the things that I could change and on making sure my actions were positive. I haven't done anything especially amazing but I've tried to support local businesses, be conscious about what I'm buying and where/how it was produced and to above all be kind and considerate to everyone I've dealt with (I've definitely not managed that every time but I'm trying!) This is something I believe in very strongly and will continue to pursue; if we all make an effort to be thoughtful, considerate and kind we can create truly caring and inspiring communities. With that thought, I'd like to wish you all a very happy, peaceful, kind and productive New Year!