Time for spring colours I think?

pink tulip yellow mugChange in the season, change in the light and often a change in mood and we respond with seeking out a slightly different palette. I have just made up a selection of yellow tints to use as backgrounds. I’ve noticed a lot of pastel coloured jackets and shoes whilst browsing through the style pages recently and as you can see I’ve been influenced.

I’ve decided to combine the pale pinks and blues with a yellow background. In a spare moment I had a quick review of my other finished work and noticed more pink from the last 12 months than I’d remembered!

But, of course, mother nature does pink the best.

spring colours

Caught in the act!

Me workLike many people who work from home I tend to have the radio on all day long. And, if not the radio then I have an audiobook plugged into my ears. So, it is quite possible for a camera-toting daughter (home for the holidays) to sneak up on me and catch me off guard.

Recently, I’ve been working on smaller pieces, but I decided I must just knuckle down and finish this large scarf. It is inspired by the colours of St Peter’s robes as depicted on the Ranworth rood screen. You can see my photograph of the bottom of the robes (with feet!) propped up in the above picture and a bit more detail at Motif combinations.

Me caught working

An Artisan’s Perennial Issue – Quality Raw Materials

painted silk twill scarf 18 mmYesterday I was reading a post and accompanying comments from Juliet Macleod’s blog, the Cloud Pottery discussing the choices of different clays for pottery. One of the contributors mentioned ‘extra white stoneware’, and said, “it’s definitely not as white as it used to be”. How timely, I thought to myself, as I have just been notified that my supplier of square, silk twill blanks are no longer stocking my preferred 90 x 90 cm size. And, the option to go direct to the Chinese supplier in Shanghai is not viable as a minimum order of 1000 pieces is required. More change, things are definitely not like they used to be.

Silk is similar to any raw material as it comes in different grades, weights and weaves and that is before you start to consider colour. I am not sure how often people read the textile labels when buying clothes and accessories, but if you do, you will see percentage fibre contents and for a silk item it normally just says 100% silk. Of course you can find specialist woven textiles where silk is woven with wool or cotton, or there are more complex, multiple fibre mixes that add some silk threads to the weave to add lustre to the finished textile.

But, most usually silk as clothing is sold as pure silk, 100% silk. Pure silk is the epitome of luxury textiles with a long and fascinating history including the establishment of one of the greatest trade routes the world has ever known – the Silk Road. And, with my Art Historian’s hat on, over the centuries silk has been the medium for the transmission of many Chinese and Eastern designs and motifs from the East to Europe and the West.

Silk is available in many different weaves and patterns from the simplest tabby/plain weave to complex figured fabrics such as damask. It is sold in mommes (mm), pronounced mummies. This is a measure of density as opposed to purely weight. That is kilograms per metre square. Originally it was equal to the weight in pounds of a bolt of silk that was 45 inches wide by 100 yards long regardless of the weave. Nowadays, silk is sold between 3 mm for a light gauze right the way through to 40 mm for a heavy, raw silk cloth that looks like a coarse linen.

As a silk painter for most of my designs I like to use a silk that is woven to give a clean surface and I particularly like to work on twills or crepe de chines that are between 10 mm to 14 mm giving the finished scarves a good weight that falls well. Also, as a matter of personal choice although I think satins and charmeuse look beautiful for evening wear, I prefer the gentler lustre of twill or crepe de chine for normal everyday scarves. Despite my last declaration, I do have to admit to owning a couple of showy silk chiffon scarves that I’ve been known to wear in the daytime to the accompanying remark, “Oo, we see Agnes is glammed up today – what’s the occasion?” Actually, there was no special occasion, but sometimes you just need to brighten yourself up a bit – and why not?

painted red silk chiffon 8 mm scarf
Painted silk chiffon scarf.

Diva Pink

pink silk scarfBrilliant, vivid colours are not to everybody’s taste, but some people live technicolor, dynamic lives and appear to have larger than life personalities. For those opera stars fuchsia pink and scarlet seemed the natural choice.

A little bit of scorching colour doesn’t do the rest of us any harm during a grey, miserable January – so I give you pics of Peacock Wave Pink (no longer with me as this silk scarf was left at the Stage Door).

silk scarf pink and red

The Artisan in the Global Village

It is easy to believe with the power of the Internet that there is a Global Village, and, to some extent I think that we have never known so much about other people from across the planet. Yet, the word ‘village’ suggests a small community and community suggests personal knowledge of and interaction with individual people. We think we know about celebrities because so much of their everyday reality is displayed for the rest of us to consume. Despite the relentless pressure from the world of advertising and celebrity endorsements, I don’t think we believe we live in the same online village as celebrities. I do however sense that there are small villages of likeminded people clustering together in the blogging world.

Rood screen St Edmund's Southwold
The Rood Screen at St Edmund’s, Southwold, Suffolk.
Tempera on wooden panels with stamped gesso covered with gold leaf. c. 1459-1480s
Restoration work on faces probably undertaken in the 1930s.

Five hundred years ago in the small communities of East Anglia villagers knew each other, their roles, their status and their reputations, and the pre-Reformation parish churches provided a centre to their lives as well as their afterlives. These buildings were places where an individual would be remembered in the prayers of the community. In fifteenth-century Norfolk, artisans or decorators or painters or craftsmen (or creators or producers or makers), adorned the wooden rood screens of parish churches with painted representations of saints, prophets, and possibly benefactors. Members of the local community donated funds for a panel and asked to be remembered in the prayers of their fellow parishioners when they were dead. On the rood screen from the parish church of St Michael and All Angels, Aylsham, Norfolk, the following fragments can still be read along the bottom of the screen 500 years later;

‘Pray for the souls of Thomas Wymer, Joan and Margaret his wives who caused this part ….. John Jannys …. of this work to be gilded who …. died 1507’.

Roodscreen St Michael Aylsham
The Rood Screen of St Michael and All Angels, Aylsham, Norfolk, UK
Panels of Saints painted in tempera – circa 1500.

St Helen's Ranworth rood screen
Detail from rood screen at St Helen’s, Ranworth, Norfolk. Tempera on wooden panels. c. 1479
(Evidence from the will of Robert Iryng.)
Saints shown from left are James the Great, Andrew and Peter.
There are a number of medieval parish churches in East Anglia which still have their fifteenth-century painted rood screens in place. The condition of the painting varies and there are some sublime surviving examples most famously St Helen’s, Ranworth, Norfolk and St Edmund’s, Southwold, Suffolk, but I chose this one at Aylsham as it possibly mentions one of the makers, an artisan. The surviving text can be interpreted with more than one meaning – did John Jannys do the gilding or pay for it? It is rare for pre-Renaissance makers to leave their name. Artisans worked locally and were known locally with the transference of style, skill and reputation spreading by the real life journey to the next village or the next county.

So, John Jannys, half a millennium later, we know your name and we can see you contributed something to the rood screen. You would be amazed at our globally interconnected world, but not surprised if you were an artisan that artisans are still trying to be recognised for their work only now they labour in the shadows of ‘artists’ and ‘designers’.

Here is a beautiful scarf I love by the French artisan Sophie Digard with this pertinent quote describing her work ‘French designer Sophie Digard creates artworks that beg to be touched’. (The highlighting is mine.)

Her work is available at Sophie Digard.