Back from Narnia?

Agnes-Ashe-Banner-Apr2018 copyIt has been awkward finding appealing interior spaces and decent natural lighting for a scarf photoshoot this past winter and the following grey, grey spring, but, eventually, I have some new photographs for my online shop.

Agnes-Ashe-Fenella-Model-insta1

It always takes longer than I think to start achieving interesting shots and then there is that moment when you capture somebody’s ‘selfie business’,

and, of course, there’s always capturing the odd rather strange scary expression – at least one if not more of those!

Model-stare

But if you were wondering what the ‘Back from Narnia’ title was about, well, it was wardrobes. In particular, it is about a partially dismantled Edwardian wardrobe (still, as I write, in pieces) that provided an obvious gateway between 21st century Ipswich and Narnia.

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It’s Officially Spring

Thistil-gold-ShowcaseIt was the Vernal Equinox on Tuesday and despite all the wintery and bitterly cold wind (a short visit from Mini-beast last week, the cousin of the Beast from the East) it is officially spring and just a little bit warmer today. And, furthermore, with impeccable timing the UK Handmade Spring Showcase went live on Tuesday too.

UKHandmade-Spring-Showcase

I have been lucky enough to be selected for this showcase and two of my scarves have been featured.

Tudor-Bows-Blue-bannerI think the two photos chosen are bright and colourful –  hopefully capturing that optimism associated with spring. Who doesn’t need some bright cheeriness after the winter?

Tudor-bows-blue-tied-11-InstaTudor Bows Blue – hand painted, long silk twill scarf.

Purple, violet, mauve

Purple-curtainsYou may or may not have noticed, depending on how much you use Google, that earlier this week Google marked an interesting textiles red-letter day, or should that be purple-letter day.

google-celebrates-perkinThe folks at Google uploaded the above rather charming Google Doodle to celebrate the birthday of William Henry Perkin who was born on 12 March 1838. Perkin was the man who discovered the first synthetic dye, aniline purple.

Purple-clothThere is an interesting short article describing his pioneering work deriving a purple dye from coal tar on the Selvedge Magazine Blog.

The discovery of aniline dyes and, in particular, a purple dye, provided the opportunity for the mass production of purple coloured cloth. Up until the 19th century there was a long-held convention of royalty exclusively wearing purple garments. A tradition that originated with the royal and aristocratic families of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Imperial family of the Roman Empire. In Renaissance England Elizabeth 1, a shrewd monarch with a fine instinct for understanding the value of visual propaganda, added to the many Sumptuary Laws governing how folk were permitted to dress, and proclaimed that only close members of the Royal family were allowed to wear purple.

Purple-silk-cushion-scarfPurple textiles had been incredibly expensive as they were coloured with Tyrian dye collected from sea snails with approximately 10,000 molluscs needed to produce about one gram of the dye.

Purple-face-silk-scarfLooking through my recent work I have hardly used any true purple (as seen in the third photograph above) and it is a dye that works well on silk producing an extremely rich  colour.

Three-lilacFurthermore, I only have three scarves in my shop at the moment that have lilac(ish) backgrounds. Of course, I might be very tempted now to use a lot more purple as I have just read that the Colour of the Year for 2018 is Ultra Violet (perhaps why Google chose to celebrate Perkin?).

Purple-shapes-silk-scarfMaybe, I am at the turning point of a personal ‘colour cycle’ as some of my older pieces feature purple accents and one of my favourite chiffons from about 20 years ago shows a saint dressed in deep purple and burgundy. Perhaps it’s farewell to pastels and pinks for a while, mind you I am not holding my breath on that one!

Purple-clothed-saint

 

 

Golden times – inspirational plants

RudbeckiaRecently, just before the first full, proper frost I took some photos in the local park of the classic warm golds of autumn. Drifts of rudbeckia capped with their rich, dark brown top-knots looked fabulous in Holywells Park and they’re also very useful in a domestic garden.

Personally, I am not a fan of grasses in my own garden spaces but, I think that in larger grounds, when they are planted in graceful drifts, they work very well. And,

then there are the autumn berries. Another plant that I don’t have in my garden due to its inch long spines is pyracantha. I can understand its value in some situations as a ‘deterrent’ plant whether that is to deter persistent, destructive wildlife or feared burglars. If you need the long spines you also get the bonus of clusters of vibrant, orange or red berries. These berries of pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ fairly zing. Quite inspirational.

Orange-and-golden

 

Long gone favourites

Autumn-colours

Autumn is most definitely in the air. We’ve passed the autumnal equinox and the late summer blooms are looking ragged and at the end of the their displays. I have found myself choosing colours from the warmer end of the spectrum, adding more images that feature browns and oranges to my Pinterest board ‘October Living‘. Early autumn is also the time when craft folk start preparing for the Christmas Fairs they will be attending. I have been reviewing my current stock and remembering some of my favourite scarves that have been sold.

Considering how long it takes me to paint a scarf, strangely, once they have been sold I can hardly remember what they looked like. It has been surprising to rediscover them whilst searching through various memory sticks seeking suitable images to use for my Christmas promotional material.

A quick review suggests that black and pink designs have been appreciated by others as well as being a personal favourite and scarves featuring blues and greens are also popular. All my work pictured above has been sold, but this long crepe de chine ticks all the boxes, pink and black and blue and green, and is currently for sale on my shop.

Evolution of a favourite motif

Agatha-Pink-2It started as a design worked partly from an aquilegia

and partly from a showy lily. It is an easy motif that flows across the silk.

And it has evolved and evolved into a very loose flowery shape I have used over and over again in various sizes, from the large

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-scarf-Silvia-clover-square-hgg copy
A 90 x 90 cm crepe de chine square with the motif over 50 cm across.

to the small. A pocket square 30 x 30 cm with the motif barely 5 cm across.

Pocket-Square-12-inchAnd I’ve reworked the motif with various colour combinations.

 

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

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!

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Inspirational medieval stained glass

medieval-painted-glass-Long-MelfordLast year when I visited the Great Church of the Holy Trinity, Long Melford, I knew it had some of the finest surviving fifteenth-century stained glass in England. Naturally, I made sure I had plenty of time to photograph the beautiful windows.

I’ve previously blogged about the outstanding glass filling the north aisle windows of this Suffolk ‘wool’ church. I’ve also examined the single donor portrait of Elizabeth Talbot, wife of John de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and the possible link to the John Tenniel illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.

donor-portrait-windows-long-melfordHowever, there are many more medieval folk represented in this collection of stained glass. Today, almost all of the surviving portraits of the original donors can be identified by visitors as, when the portraits were re-glazed to their present locations a small lite bearing each name was inserted beneath. These labels are a modern addition.

Modern-name-litesExamination of original fragments of medieval gothic script legends, together with any related heraldry and further evidence from the historical record, has enabled accurate contemporary identification, hence the useful labels.

frays-windowThe use of heraldry not only aids modern identification, but in medieval times confirmed the various family connections and associations, and, would have maintained the significance of these people in the eyes of their contemporary congregations. However, the principle reason the wealthy aristocracy commissioned these glass portraits was piety. They wished to be remembered in the prayers of the clergy and congregations for a long while after their deaths in the hope of shortening their time in purgatory. Heraldry-for-Elizabeth-Annes-Margaret

fraysLittle were they aware that the very notion of purgatory would be rejected within the next 100 years following the Reformation and the establishment of English Protestantism. And, never would they have dreamt that 500 years later visitors to their church would be just as interested, if not more interested, in the skills of the talented yet nameless artisans who created this costly and elegant glass.

I have found the windows a great inspiration and have used the colours and some of the motifs to develop a silk scarf design.InspirationBut somehow I still can’t quite capture the tone of the original creations!

stained glass medieval portrait
Anne Darcy sister-in-law of John Clopton and wife of John Montgomery. Late fifteenth-century stained glass, Holy Trinity, Long Melford, Suffolk.

Experimentation

detail-exptiiiSorting through my collection of fabric I found a piece of silk I painted years ago with a colour combination I no longer like. It was pale enough to be over-dyed so I thought I’d experiment and work boldly with just one colour.

First the whole piece is covered with red and allowed to dry. Then a pattern is painted in a clear resist, allowed to dry and another layer of darker red applied.

It is difficult to see in these photos, but there are hints of the underlying original still present (more visible in real life). I have found it liberating and easy to be bold when working over a design rather than adding colour to a pristine white background. However, I have discovered just how difficult it is to photograph a large area of saturated red. Thankfully the wonderful resource of online photography forums saved me many, many adjustments on my camera by indicating that post-processing after shooting in RAW solves issues of accurately capturing this rich colour.

expt-iii-steamed-and-pressed-copy