The Unconscious Influence of Taking Photographs

Getting-the-shot

Photographer concentrating on getting the shot, oblivious of me who had just missed the shot!!!

I use photographs a lot for my work. I am always looking for inspiration from the world around me and use my camera to capture these moments. Recently, when reviewing and rearranging my current online shop collections, I recognised subtle influences from my photography. I had been searching through my various memory sticks of stored images to freshen up my product listings. It was clear from comparing dates on the files that after a few sessions of photographing some summer garden flowers, shades of peach started to appear in the pink scarf I was painting at the time. Although I was not directly using the flowers photos as source material their influence was quite obvious with hindsight – up until then peach was not included in my work.

Influences-colourful-flowers

I also opened my Bury St Edmunds memory stick.  There were plenty of photographs of the glorious stained glass in the cathedral, both motifs and colours from the glass I have since featured directly in my silk scarf designs. However, after working in the cooler tones of the glass for a few months I can see I gradually moved to a palette of warm, rich colours. This was not the conscious process as before but I think the beautiful rich red windows had left their mark. Looking at the dates on these files I think the autumn weather was also a factor.

Influential-reds

It hasn’t only been colourful images that have unconsciously influenced my work. When you are looking for a good shot you examine your surroundings with more attention and details so often overlooked are literally brought into focus. Shapes I hadn’t thought I had noticed at the time have been added to my stock of motifs such as the details on these sculptures.

Cemetery-shapes

In the end though sometimes there is no obvious inspiration for the colours of a scarf. With one of my favourites, this blue and green scarf below (long sold), I worked up the design layer on layer adapting my choice of dyes after each layer was steamed. A less controlled more serendipitous process.  .   .   .   .   .   .   but I had been recently photographing seascapes!!!

Petrol-blues

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Park life – planting for bees

Chicory-succoryThink of a traditional civic park in the UK and regularly mown grass criss-crossed with paths and dotted with formal bedding schemes springs to mind. A vision surviving from our community minded forebears, the Victorians.

Wilding-the-parkBut in the 21st century planted civic spaces in many towns have moved away from this formal interpretation. Perhaps this is partly due to the labour intensive nature of seasonal bedding schemes and therefore the greater expense.

Nowadays we find hole areas of parks have become very informal with a move to include the introduction of more natural, conservation areas.  Plants are being chosen to support the indigenous wildlife and there’s even a hint of re-wilding some areas and a hands off approach to weeding.

Meadow-wildflowers-clump

Meadow wildflowers. Bee friendly clump of wild chicory, upright hedge-parsley, teasel and common thistle.

Of course, look closely and there is a fine balance between allowing nature to flourish yet not become entirely overrun with the more thuggish weeds. Weed or not, the bees are only too pleased for the odd flowering thistle and the butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all love a healthy patch of nettles. (Sadly, when I was in the park I only spotted a couple of Commas, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good year for butterflies, possibly due to the recent heavy downpours.)
Busy-beeIt isn’t just the annual and biennial wild flowers that are important for bees, as in the autumn, when there are fewer blooms around, ivy flowers provide a very important source of nectar. And, this is where the large, venerable park trees supporting their heavy old cloaks of ivy are so important as only established, mature (arborescent) ivy flowers.

Woodland-cool-Holywells

Large old tree clad in arborescent ivy in the woodland area of Holywells Park, Ipswich, Suffolk.

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Spotted amongst the Dunkirk Little Ships

Thistle-dockedIf you have been to see or are going to see the latest Christopher Nolan film ‘Dunkirk’ then you will have seen or be seeing ‘Xylonite’, an old Thames Barge. The film ‘Dunkirk’ is a dramatisation of the evacuation of over 330,00 Allied troops from the sandy beaches of Dunkerque in northern France. These shocking events took place between 27th May and 4th June in the summer of 1940 during World War Two.

Xylonite-shot-still-film-Dunkirk

Thames Sailing Barge Xylonite. Still from Christopher Nolan’s film ‘Dunkirk’.

Please excuse my ignorance, but I didn’t have any prior knowledge about the role played by any Thames barges during the Dunkirk evacuation, but as I watched the film I spotted a type of boat I thought I recognised. And, yes, I did. It was one of the old Thames barges. Currently (as I write) several very similar sister barges are moored at the Ipswich Waterfront one of which is ‘Thistle’ (top photo) recently arrived joining ‘Victor’ (featured in a previous post), ‘Thalatta’ and ‘Centaur’.

In real life, in 1940, thirty Thames barges took part in the evacuation, but only a handful of these vessels have survived into the 21st century. ‘Greta’, ‘Ena’ and ‘Pudge’ are still sailing and ‘Tollesbury’ is currently being restored whilst ‘Beatrice Maud’ is used as a houseboat.

Pudge-and-Repertor

Last month several other barges visited the Ipswich port and moored at the Neptune Quay amongst the visitors was the beautiful old, Dunkirk survivor ‘Pudge’ .

This historic sailing craft has quite a story to tell  and the quote below (taken from her website) relates her WW 2 exploits.

Her working life as a cargo carrier was interrupted in spectacular fashion by the Second World War when she was requisitioned in May 1940 whilst in Tilbury, drafted to Dover and thence to Dunkirk to aid the evacuation. Three barges including Pudge were taken in tow by a tug and crossed the Channel under cover of darkness. As they reached the beaches at Dunkirk an explosion lifted Pudge out of the water and, in the words of her skipper, “she came down the right way up”. She took onboard survivors and set off for England, picking up a tow from a tug on the way, to arrive safely back at  Ramsgate.  Pudge is one of only four of the Dunkirk Spritsail  Barges that survive. Pudge is a member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships and is entitled to fly the flag of St. George.

Pudge-sailing

Pudge in full sail. Photo from Barge Trust http://www.bargetrust.org/dunkirk

And, what of the film star ‘Xylonite’, well, she has recently been put up for sale and is yours for a cool £425,000 fully restored!

Xylonite-interiors

Postscript
Just a thought, but I wondered why one of the original Dunkirk barges ‘Pudge’ , ‘Greta’ or ‘Ena’ were not chosen for the film. Perhaps it is because they all have black hulls and it is easier to see and film the khaki uniformed soldiers against the pale bluey grey hull of ‘Xylonite’. And, maybe an aesthetic choice too as naturally the whole film has its own restricted palette of muted blues, greys and sandy colours into which ‘Xylonite’ neatly fits.

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To filter or not to filter?

filtersAccurate colour representation, strictly speaking re-presentation, on screen-based devices is, I have now decided, impossible. But before I get bogged down in the philosophical depths of reality and the perception of reality, let’s just say that we don’t all see the same colour in the same way.

Shades of pale blues and pale greens are well-known for instigating disagreements between two people both looking at the same blue or is that green? I selected Colour One and Colour Two below from the pictured scarf and have placed them on different backgrounds – personally I’d call Colour One duck egg blue! Any takers?

Blue-GreenAnd, as any other folk who regularly take photographs will know, the ambient light certainly makes colours appear different. It is also why there are a selection of lens filters (and photoshop equivalents) to adjust for the ambient light.

But one thing I didn’t particularly notice until I was reading about how we see colour is that (and this is blindingly obviously really) the same coloured object will look different against a different background!

This brings me back to presenting my work online using photographs. Silk has a lustre and this lustre varies with the weave. A crepe de chine has a subtle sheen and a flat crepe de chine almost no sheen. Satins and charmeuse silks are so lustrous that they could be called shiny whereas silk twills and taffetas are somewhere in the middle.

Silk-surfaceIn the blurb accompanying my online shop I try to explain that silk looks different in real life not least as the slightest movement makes a lustrous scarf reflect light in an ever changing subtle way. Add this information to the variety of screens people use to shop online and people’s individual perceptions of colour I conclude that accurate re-presentation of my work is not possible.

Hetty-pink-green-box-new copyApplying these observations to the wider world of online shopping in general (and I am sure most people have already realised this) if you are considering buying anything online and a precise shade or colour match is of paramount importance then either ask for a sample, a swatch or an off-cut, or read the returns policy so if it’s not right for you it can be sent back and you will be refunded. One small point unlike big retail brands, ASOS, Hermès and Liberty and so on, most small businesses, crafters and artisans are unable to offer free returns.

two

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Working waterfront – Sunday snapshot

CruisersAt first glance visitors to Ipswich Waterfront see a marina packed full of yachts and motor boats all bobbing up and down on their moorings.

 

However, it’s not long before you realise there is much more to the area than weekend sailors and their cruisers. There are three boat trip vessels based at the marina, one of which is Victor, a magnificent old Thames barge.

Tourists can board Victor for river trips down the River Orwell towards Harwich, Felixstowe and the North Sea.

Docked-SuntisDuring the week there is also working traffic. Ships, such as this cargo ship, Suntis, shown here delivering a cargo of timber, arrive from ports across the North Sea. Boatyards dotted along the quays are busy even during the summer months moving sail boats and cruisers lifting them in and out of the water for regular maintenance.

Ipswich-working-dock-marinaThese big old, Thames barges have been sailing up and down the River Orwell transporting cargoes to and from Ipswich docks for over 100 years and the other weekend another four joined Victor mooring up at the Neptune Marina.

Four-Thames-bargesAlthough the boatyards are closed on Sundays, it can still be busy at weekends as various motor powered RIBs and other inflatable craft buzz around the dock area in between the tacking dinghies.

Tacking

So that is a Sunday snapshot of Ipswich, one of England’s oldest towns, reinventing itself for the 21st century.

busy-Sunday-sailing

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Finding some floral magic

Local-park-flowersSo far it’s four months since I packed up my home and said good-bye to the flower garden and I am most definitely missing some summer floral interaction! These photos were taken in the local park, Holywells Park, a five minute walk from my temporary home.Park-terracesIt isn’t a huge park, but it is a most welcome sanctuary of green only five minutes from the very busy Ipswich Waterfront and less than a 20 minute walk from the city centre.

The Winerack from Holywells Park Ipswich

Through the trees, just visible, is ‘The Winerack’ the skeletal structure of a half-finished tower block located on the Ipswich Waterfront.

The park is spread across 67 acres and features a variety of wildlife habitats including ponds, woodland and meadow areas as well as more than enough space for humans to walk their dogs.

For a gardenless person like me, there are also more formal plantings. Borders full of flowers, mostly lavender and alchemilla mollis, that soften the edges of the terraces between the old buildings. visiting-beeWe have had some hot weather during the last month and only a couple days of any rain, and I think that the phlox has bolted and is running to seed, but it is still providing plenty of food for the bees.

It was a very pleasant space to spend a quiet half hour during the early morning and I couldn’t believe the noise and pollution that hit me as soon as I ventured back out into the morning rush hour! At least these beautiful lilies bring the scent of a summer garden into the flat.
Lilies

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Who is out of step with whom?

Every-inch-hand-paintedEvery inch of my silk scarves are hand painted by me. It’s obvious, I know, but that means like other artisans who craft all their own pieces, I can’t compete with mass-produced work. I’ve written several posts about my experiences of selling on Etsy and last May commented on the relationship between crafters and Etsy. More recently it has been reassuring for me to read that I am not out of step with many of my fellow artisans who like me have found that Etsy is no longer the platform for their work.

My-work-on-frameInterestingly, earlier this week, the American business magazine Forbes interviewed Gil Luria, director of research at the investment firm D.A. Davidson, concerning the state of the online marketplace Etsy. And, in his commentary he opines

. . . . .  the biggest change in the run up to Etsy’s 2015 IPO — [was when] the company removed its requirement that all goods sold on the platform had to be handmade. This gave big manufacturers access to Etsy’s loyal customer base. When Etsy started listing $10 bracelets from Chinese factories right next to $100 bracelets handmade by homemakers in Wisconsin, the homemakers could no longer compete.

Initially you may think that perhaps hand painted silk is not as easily copied and mass-produced as some jewellery appears to be, but a big manufacturer simply takes original artwork for a scarf, scans it and then laser prints it onto silk over and over. This state of affairs doesn’t merely affect solo crafters. Within the luxury brands sector companies often have their work copied, and, as I am sure you have noticed, fake versions are found at street markets all over the world. One feature which frequently adds value to handmade work is when there is only one of its kind and consequently even a limited ‘print’ run is unacceptable let alone approving mass production. When Etsy permitted mass-produced stock to be listed directly side by side with handmade they effectively undercut and devalued handmade and at the same time diminished and diluted their own brand!

portia-apple-model-instagram

 

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Role reversal

Long-Melford-charity

There is a long tradition of the rich elite funding charitable organisations. In the United Kingdom the building of almshouses for the poor is one such tradition and dates from the tenth century. A wealthy individual or family, partly in hope of improving the souls’ lot once their earthly lives had ceased, would provide land and shelter for the poor of their community. A fine example of this type of patronage survives in Long Melford, Suffolk.

almshouses long melford suffolk

Almshouses – The Hospital of the Holy Blessed Trinity founded by Sir William Cordell in 1573. Quadrangle with inner courtyard garden, red brick. Long Melford, Suffolk.

Local landowner and dignitary, Sir William Cordell, founded ‘The Hospital of the Holy Blessed Trinity’ in 1573. During his lifetime Sir William had been Master of the Rolls, High Steward of Ipswich and, in 1558, Speaker of the House of Commons. Residing in Melford Hall he had been born and raised in Long Melford and as an act of piety he provided these almshouses for some of the poor residents of his home town. He also endowed these almshouses with land and property in the surrounding area to ensure a regular source of income for the ‘twelve brethren’ who qualified to live there.

The building we see today was heavily restored in 1847 and the property continues to be administered by the Trustees of the Hospital for the benefit of the poor of Long Melford.

The neighbouring church, Holy Trinity, had been substantially rebuilt with financing from the pious wealthy during the century before the almshouses were established. And, most notably, the church windows had been magnificently glazed with stained glass (also with a view to the afterlife) displaying many recognisable donor portraits. These portraits were accompanied with heraldic information to ensure future generations would be able to identify and pray for those individuals represented.

This surviving visual record and architectural history offers a glimpse of the complex, slippery and slightly dubious relationship between God and Mammon. In our contemporary eyes there appears to be an awkward interdependence for the medieval wealthy to negotiate. Of course, during the medieval period the rich man and poor man believed that God had ordered their world and each man knew his place and acted accordingly.  One earthly benefit arising from this arrangement was employment for craftsmen and builders, and latterly, a glorious record of their skills and creativity for us to appreciate today.

Now here I come to ‘the role reversal’ – an interesting visual comparison, a wealthy medieval woman is shown praying for her soul (15th-century brass, Holy Trinity, Long Melford) and now, according to 21st-century marketing, a modern (wealthy?) woman is shown praying to/for luxury goods!

 

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It’s all about the pecking order

Arrival

Last month whilst staying with my father I hid behind the Venetian blinds and poked my camera lens through to see what was occurring at the bird feeders. There were several phases of activity when several birds arrived at the same time.

Fat-for-me

This very beautiful long-tailed tit, timid and nervous, only really managed to tuck in once the other birds had flown away.

Long-Tailed-Tit-looking

Then a noisy chattering of starlings (well six or seven) turned up to muscle their way in.

Starling-squeezes-in

After initially flying away the long-tailed tit eventually plucked up enough courage to fly back and hang onto the feeder and wait for his turn again. He obviously knew his place in the pecking order.

Pushy-starling

Not all the birds were interested in the fat ball. The greenfinches were happy to peck away at the sunflower seeds. Much to my amusement I did see the starlings make an attempt at landing on the perches, but they were too big, and, after unsuccessfully flapping around and wasting energy, they gave up and returned to the fat ball.

Greenfinch

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Stealing from the past – painting Silvia

Agnes-Ashe-clover-pink-close-up copyLiving in East Anglia there are many parish churches that still retain both medieval and Victorian church art. Painted rood screens and colourful stained glass provide a wealth of inspiration for my silk scarf designs.

I like to steal ideas for motifs and also re-work various colour combinations. Often I will just use a tiny part of a much larger stained glass window whether its from a Tudor pane or details ornamenting a Victorian light.

And, once I have created the whole design and transferred it to the silk I then steal colour combinations from a completely different medium such as the oil on board paintings of local medieval rood screens.

The finished work may not obviously look either Victorian or medieval in style, but if you look closely you may be able to spot a motif or two and recognise the ‘dirty pinks’ from the painting of St Lawrence’s robe.Silvia-square

Available from my online shop Agnes Ashe.

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Glamorous garden flowers – The Iris

Irises

Irises are a great favourite not least with some of the world’s most famous artists. Vincent van Gogh painted several ‘Iris’ pictures depicting clumps of bearded irises.

van Gogh irises

Irises – Vincent van Gogh. 1889. Oil on canvas. 93 x 71 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, US

Then, of course, there was Monet’s garden where irises had been planted en masse.

Detail-irises-in-monet-garden

Le jardin de l’artiste à Giverny. Claude Monet. 1900. Oil on canvas. H81.6cm x L. 92.6cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

And, it’s not just Western artists that have been inspired by the iris. The iris’s complex, sculptural form has been exquisitely represented in Japanese Edo Period woodblock images.

Hokusai-woodblock

Grasshopper and Iris. Katsushika Hokusai. Late 1820s. Woodblock print, ink and paper. H 24.8 x L 36 cm Metropolitan Museum, New York, US.

I recently cleared all my father’s tulip display and noticed the irises were just about to bloom, unfortunately he couldn’t see them from the house. It feels sacrilegious to cut them in their prime, but better to appreciate them fleetingly indoors than not at all.

Arrangement-irises-tulips

If bearded irises are cut with full buds they will then open over two or three days.

And, I thought these particular colours as well as the irises’ luscious form combined well to make a design that I could possibly develop further sometime in the future for some silk scarves.

irises-square copy 2

Or perhaps this less muted more fresh combination.

iris-ideas copy

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