Layering – Part II

Edna-bannerIn a recent post I uploaded photographs of the layering process. I used green dyes for the new top layer on a square silk twill scarf. Here, is another combination of colours on the same original coloured background, but this time on a long scarf.Old-Edo-long

I have used the same approach, drawing on a new set of motifs,

Edna-long-new-motifs

then adding the colour. This time I have used the greens and bronzes,

Adding-greens-and-bronze

but have changed the whole feel by adding a rich rose pink and a pale powder pink instead of the lemon yellow.

Adding-pinks.jpg

I think the finished scarf is now a more dynamic, flowing piece.

Edna-Long-finished

It is available Edna Long on Agnes Ashe.

Edna-long-boxed copy

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Young talent – Annie Lai

More-Annie-LaiCreative-review

Every now and then Instagram gives us something interesting and positive. On Tuesday 26th June the media folk at Creative Review posted this intriguing photograph by a new young talented photographer, Annie Lai.

The post informs us that Annie (for those of you who might want to have a peak on Instagram she’s @annielai_) has only recently graduated from the London College of Fashion. She grew up in China, but spent her High School years in New Zealand, before taking up her place to study photography in London. I can see why Creative Review chose to feature her work as there is a hint of a retro quality about it yet overall it is most definitely new contemporary work.

Creative-review2Looking at this fashion photograph I feel I should grab my Art Historian’s hat and immediately delve into the world of Roland Barthes to consider why I am so taken with this image. Although it is not a blatantly emotionally charged photograph, I think its composition, tone and framing, and crisp lighting is engaging us more than the average fashion photo. I think it has both studium and punctum. Naturally, this is a subjective view and in Barthes’ musings on photography he suggests you can be interested in a photograph (studium) without it having that special quality/effect he called punctum:

A photograph's punctum is that accident which 
pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me). 
Rolande Barthes 
from 'Camera Lucida - Reflections on Photography'1980

After considering why, for me, the photo has pricked me, I think it is very personal. Overtly, it has made me recall images of Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick that were splashed across the magazines from my childhood. Then, in a fleeting drift of linking memories radiating out from this recollection I arrived at recalling my childish thrill at wearing some new orange sandals. My sister and I had accompanied my mother on a visit to a home hairdresser. It had been a very hot day and she had dressed us in matching homemade turquoise and green paisley print mini-dresses. And, I got to wear my new sandals. Amongst the many events of childhood, a random moment on a random day was caught to become a poignant memory for me and it has been strangely evoked by this 21st century fashion photo.

As far as my own attempts at fashion photography go I think I have captured one decent shot in the last 1,000. Again, it’s all subjective, but I think this photograph probably works for more than just me as it is one of my popular pics on Instagram.

Walkies copy

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Parched

Hot-at-Shingle-StreetEnd of July, hottest day of the year so far (35 degrees C) and there’s still no sign of significant rain for the eastern side of England. We are used to low rainfall as the norm here in East Anglia, but this heatwave is taking its toll even in our region where we tend to plant for dry conditions. The main barley crop has been harvested two weeks earlier than usual and there is concern that wheat yields may be down as much as 50% from their normal average for some Suffolk farms.

Green-but-not-grassWalking around Ipswich the grass is bone dry and the colour and crispness of ancient mummy bandages. Let’s pause and think for a moment who would spend hours irrigating with drinking water to keep grass green? Surely no-one as the grass will quickly recover when the rain returns and it is such a waste of clean water. Oh and, don’t be fooled by the ‘green’ photograph from Ipswich Cemetery (above), in fact that is fallen blossom from the Pride of India/Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) dusting the path. The grass is the same as everywhere else, parched.Parched-grass-cemeteryIt is pretty much the same about 15 miles away on the Suffolk coast at Shingle Street. Here the grass is dried out too, but it is dotted with colour from the wild thistles and mullein (Verbascum) enjoying the hot, dry weather and free draining coastal soil.

Interestingly more green vegetation and floral colour has been achieved by some judicious planting at the back of the Coastguards Cottages. Still hot and dry conditions for the plants, but here they are protected the rest of the year from the east wind coming off the sea.

Back-of-Coastguard-Cottages-Shingle-StreetNaturally, on the beach side of the cottages it is tough Mother Nature doing her thing as clumps of sea kale (Crambe maritima) survive on the windswept pebble shore.

crambe-maritima.jpg

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Layering – Part I

Header-picIt is time for changing two or three older pieces of work that haven’t sold. I am happy to say that overpainting previously painted and steamed silk can give some very pleasing results. Here a (boring) pale cream, lilac and blue combination is transformed.

Edo-square-clup3-blue copy

Firstly with a new set of motifs applied.

Drawing-new-over-design

Then painting in with another range of colours, this time greens and bronze.

Filling-over-dark

Gradually the whole square is transformed. It is a creative process that generates some intriguing overlapping combinations of colours.

On-frame-dyes

It was this . . . . .

edo-sq-full

and then this (ready for steaming)  .  .  .   .

Edo-sq-II

and now it’s finished.

Edna-square-composite

For sale here.

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Hand-painted, really?

This-is-me copyThis is not what I was going to blog about today, but I need to have a little, or not so little moan. This is how my morning started. Firstly, I received an email from a company asking me if I’d like to get my shop on the ‘1st page of Google’. That is, as you probably all already know, the first page listing web links when you do a Google search. Of course, naturally the listed websites depend on what you are searching for. I would be horrified if you were searching for ‘compost caddies’ and my webpage or image of one of my scarves appeared in front of you. Usually in the mysterious world of Google algorithms and SEO (search engine optimisation) simply typing in a few keywords is enough to generate the right useful links. As with much of life you are first hit with the ‘paid for’ advert links with Google and then, what Google call, the ‘organically’ generated links.

Just now I did a Google search to check if my shop was on the first page (I don’t pay for adverts). The search terms were ‘Hand painted silk UK’, results below.

Google-1st-pageThere aren’t many of us in the UK painting and selling one-off silk scarves and my shop is usually on the first if not second page along with other similar silk artists/painters. However, first thing this morning my search also threw up a link to the ‘Paul Smith’ international fashion business. It was the use of the words ‘hand painted’ I think that triggered the link.

PS1You can call me a nitpicking pedant for this comment, but here goes. The original design for this mass produced scarf  was ‘hand-painted’, but this scarf is a printed version of that hand painted work. It is most certainly NOT a one-off hand painted scarf.

Then there was this ‘Painted Garden’ silk scarf.

ps2I think calling this ‘Painted Garden’ is probably more acceptable especially as it is then described as a print silk square scarf. I guess what is happening is in these days with much textile design work being produced digitally that printing a design from an original hand-drawn or hand-painted artwork is now considered unusual enough to be a selling point.

However, I can’t help but feel that the marketing people are implying unique, one-off and hand painted in an attempt to make mass produced products somehow more wholesome and authentic and therefore deserve their ticket price of £110. You can tell this has annoyed me rather a lot. Genuine hand painted silk scarves take hours of work and every single scarf is unique. Sorry, rant over, but here is a photo of the real thing, an unrepeatable, hand-painted silk scarf. (Most certainly not licensed for digital printing either!)

Agnes-Ashe-Red-Scarf-model-4

 

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Where are the flowers?

Garden-poseyWhere are the flowers? Well, certainly not in my backyard. Disappointingly, this is the second summer for me in my 20 plus years of gardening that I have not had a patch of earth yielding some floral delights. The fencing was only erected last week so at least now I can begin to see ‘defined space’ (or lack of it) to plan some planting. As a stop gap I have stuck a few pelargonium and sweet pea plugs into pots, but they went in rather late and show no signs of blooming yet.

Feeling flower starved I trotted down to the local florist. I think like many small businesses old fashioned florists have had their casual, walk-in trade almost obliterated by the big supermarkets undercutting them. It seems to have left florists with the traditional wedding and funeral business plus the odd corporate event. The consequence of this change in retail habits has resulted in some florists, understandably, reducing the range of flowers being stocked in their shops. I was disappointed with what was on offer especially considering that we are in high summer. Dispiritingly this is the best I could manage

florist-flowers.jpgand the arrangement includes stealing a blousy hydrangea bloom from the single surviving shrub at the front of the house.

The local park has offered more treats for the florally deprived with swathes of English lavender contrasting with clumps of achillea.Park-lavenderAnd, last month there were field poppies blooming cheerfully in the unexpected heatwave.Hairy-stemsHowever, back home it was a disappointing and scentless flower situation until a visiting friend came to the rescue with a gorgeous scented posey of flowers from her garden.Sweet-Peas-daisiesSweet peas and cheerful daisies. I really don’t think you can beat homegrown flowers. In this case there are no air miles, very few road miles and no excessive irrigation and/or glasshouse heating costs. There is just a delicate, visual treat and an intoxicating, seasonal scent filling my workroom.Cheerful-daisies

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Stealing from Tudor Artisans – Part II

Pheasant-motifLast week I posted about my discovery of a beautiful example of Tudor woodwork, the Parham fire surround.  I found the detailed carving inspirational and have developed a motif from one of the pheasants lurking in the carved vegetation.

Parham-dev

Here is more of the process shown in a few photos as the design is first outlined and then painted with dye, pink, old gold and moss green, on a handkerchief-sized piece of silk.

Silk-square-tiny

I was not convinced about the old gold so it was dropped when I expanded and transferred the design to a larger, 90 x 90 cm square silk twill scarf.

Full-more-pink-added

Moved-to-90x90

As I recently mentioned June is the month of roses and I do love a classic pink rose – I think that’s why I have been working with pink all this month.

And, the pieces are now ready to be rolled in paper and steamed for a couple of hours to fix the dyes.Pheasant-motif-Two

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Stealing from Tudor Artisans – Part I

Parham-Firesurround-middle-leftAlways on the lookout for captivating visual imagery with which to work, a trip to an exhibition often yields a good collection of useful photographs. Mind you it is surprising how often I go thinking I know what I need to photograph and find something else entirely different awash with fascinating and inspirational details just waiting to be worked up into designs for my scarves.

English Oak Tudor fire surround

Fire Surround from Parham near Woodbridge, Suffolk English Oak Circa 1510-30

This was certainly the case when I saw the Parham Fire Surround. It is an impressive piece of Tudor woodwork intricately carved with monkeys, birds, foliage and fruit.

This beautiful yet functional example of early sixteenth-century carpentry was on display as part of the Thomas Wolsey Exhibition held at Christchurch Mansion earlier this year. The fire surround came from a superior house in Parham near Woodbridge in Suffolk and would have been installed in one of the principal rooms. The elegant detailed carving indicates the status, wealth and taste of the homeowner.

Parham Firesurround monkey eating pomegranate

Monkey with foot grasping the top of a split pomegranate. Parham fire surround. Woodbridge, Suffolk. English Oak circa 1510-30

It also features the specific detail of pomegranates, a visual reference to Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon. The exotic quality of the pomegranate motif signifying Katherine’s Spanish origin as well as being a symbol of fertility. By the time of the Tudor period the pomegranate, with its many seeds, already had a long history associated with fecundity. It is poignant that this particular symbol should be associated with a queen whose paucity of viable offspring became her downfall when she failed to provide a male heir for Henry and the English throne.

PheasantHowever, the detail that especially caught my attention was the berry eating pheasants. Pheasants were most likely brought to England by the Romans, but it isn’t until the eleventh century that there is mention of pheasants in the historical record. They were a bird for the nobleman’s table and as the Normans spread their power and influence across England so pheasants became part of the English countryside.

By the fourteenth and fifteenth century they were a common sight and are mentioned as part of ecclesiastical celebration feasts too. At the time the Parham pheasants were carved the records indicate that Henry VIII appeared to have kept a French priest as a “fesaunt breeder”.

Pheasant-motif-BWNowadays driving round the lanes of Suffolk it is not a rarity to have to take action to avoid a cock pheasant confidently strolling across the road.

Enough of Suffolk lanes and wildlife and back to the silk which I trialled on a small square of silk, before translating the whole design to a 90 x 90 cm silk twill . . .  to be continued in Part II.

 

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Reviewing Rose Possibilities

Botanical-illustrationsIt is now June and the classic flower of the month in England is usually considered to be the rose. Apart from the fact that I still have endless weekends of internal decoration to attend to, and, as I type, I am manfully ignoring one entire room left in an almost derelict state, I have started to think about the garden.

I realise one way and another I have missed this year for some of my flowering favourites such as the hellebores, tulips, aquilegias, irises and roses not to mention a flowering fruit tree or two. However, now is not the time to moan, but to get on and get planning. It is a good time to think ahead as although quite a few container grown roses are now out of stock for this season, they can still be ordered for delivery as bare root plants for this coming autumn and winter. Naturally, recent evenings have been spent perusing my old copy of ‘The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book’ in the hunt for suitable roses for very small gardens.

Graham-Stuart-Thomas-go-to-rose-bookAlthough I do love many of the old fashioned shrub roses that I have grown in the past not all of them are as robust as some of the more recent introductions such as rosa Queen Elizabeth (1954, see below) or the David Austin rose, rosa St Swithun (1993, above right).

Modern-hybrid-tea-Queen-ElizabthCurrently, I am tending towards a thornless, reliable modern climber for my very tiny front patch, possibly the David Austin climbing rose, rosa Mortimer Sackler (2002). It needs to be thornless as it will eventually top the boundary wall at waist height between my property and a side passage used as the rear access for my neighbours.

David-Austin-Mortimer-Sackler

Rosa Mortimer Sackler introduced by David Austin 2002. Photo: David Austin website

Mind you I have been tempted by Stuart Thomas’s comments on rosa Agnes, “Unusual with delicious scent”, but despite the appealing name (😉) I don’t feel I can fit a yellow rose, even this pale, muddled beauty, into the planting scheme.

Agnes

It is a while since I have taken my copy of the Rose Book off the shelf. Indeed, it has been boxed up with all the rest of my books for the last 18 months during the moving process and consequently I was surprised when a slip of paper fell out. As I picked it up expecting it to be a now redundant list of roses from my last garden, I noticed with curiosity that it was a poem. One of my favourites originally copied out over 15 years ago.

ee-cummings-poem

 

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Dragon Boat Racing for Charity

ArrivingLast Saturday some seriously energetic folk climbed into their boats and spent the day racing in the Fresh Start Charity Dragon Boat Challenge. Dragon boat racing is an ancient Chinese tradition rowing to the rhythm of the drum and has grown into a global sport. On this occasion the racing was all part of a fundraising initiative to collect money for the Fresh Start Charity which provides support for children who have suffered sexual abuse.

Lined-up-ready

Down at the Ipswich Waterfront 18 crews from a variety of local businesses rowed heats of 200 metres during the course of the day. The challenge was finally won by the Ipswich Canoe Club. I guess no shock surprise there!

RacingBut, of course, the big winner was the Fresh Start Charity as £10,000 was raised for such a worthwhile cause.

Another-heat

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Teapots for Tea – Not Always!

5It is amazing that an object, possibly used everyday, that can so easily be dropped or knocked over and broken, could ever survive 250 years, but that is the case with some of these beautiful old teapots.

Worcester Porcelain 1750-1758

Worcester Porcelain teapot painted in puce enamel (the First or ‘Dr Wall’ Period).                     About 1750-1758

Of course, many of them have been in grand collections and as such probably infrequently handled. I can imagine that most of these prized painted examples have not been in regular use for a couple of centuries.

They are currently on display as part of the Early Porcelain (1740-1780) section of the The Twining Teapot Gallery, Norwich Castle Museum.

For most of the 18th century imported tea was an expensive beverage not least as it was heavily taxed. The high price (5 shillings per pound in 1711) affordable only by the wealthy, was also maintained by the virtual monopoly held by the merchants of the East India Company. Although the tax was reduced in 1723 and again in 1745, tea was smuggled into the country. It was also adulterated with other ingredients such as dried hawthorn leaves. I can’t imagine what that tasted like.

'The Smoking Party' teapot Wedgwood 1775

‘The Smoking Party’ teapot. Transfer-printed in black. This pot impressed WEDGWOOD mark and worker’s mark. About 1775

Towards the end of the 18th century following pressure from Richard Twining, Chairman of the London Tea Dealers, the Tea and Window Act of 1784 reduced the duty from 119 per cent to 12 per cent per pound. With such a reduction in price tea became available to the lower levels of society and consumption rose, and, within ten years imports had quadrupled and tea smuggling disappeared. It was William Pitt the Younger who introduced these new much lower rates and at the same time, to mitigate the loss of revenue from tea imports, he increased the window tax hence the Tea and Window Act.

Lowestoft miniature tea service 1770

Lowestoft porcelain miniature tea service on mahogany tray. Tea service painted in underglaze blue. 1770 – 1780 Lowestoft porcelain factory, Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Naturally, teapots were used for tea, but, interestingly not exclusively tea. Below, this cream, textured teapot is one such example.  Larger than most of teapots in the Early Porcelain section of the display, it may well have been used for punch. I should think that punch was infinitely preferable to ‘hawthorn’ tea.

William Littler Longton Hall

Porcelain with moulded decoration possibly used for punch. William Littler at Longton Hall, Staffordshire. About 1775.

 

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