Stealing from ceramics

Like most people before the pandemic and the restrictions and the lockdowns, I used to go out. I went out locally as well as further afield to visit churches, museums and galleries always looking for inspiration for my work. Medieval sculptural details and the patterns painted on Victorian stained glass, so common in our parish churches, have been a great resource. However, for the time being most churches are locked and entry is not permitted.

Naturally, like many people working from home I have turned to the Internet and have found viewing online Fine and Decorative Art Sale Catalogues very worthwhile. These catalogues often have great photos with good colour showing off the beautiful detail that can be found on unusual antiques such as this Carlton Ware vase by Violet Elmer (1907-1988). (And, to my surprise, Violet had a link to Suffolk as her great-grandparents had lived in Scotland Street, Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk, in the early 19th century. There is an interesting article in the East Anglian Daily Times about a couple of collectors from just outside Ipswich who have filled their home with Carlton Ware and hunted down some biographical details for Violet. She was born in Oxford in 1907 and moved to Stoke-on-Trent in 1928 to work as a designer at the Carlton Works. Sadly, for us, she stopped work in 1938 when she got married.)

Carlton Ware ‘Fantasia’ by Violet Elmer. Lustre and gilt, 18 cm high. circa 1930/31. Sold April 2017 for Ā£439.

This fine example of her work is vase decorated with exotic birds (disappearing round the top righthand edge), flora and foliage on a pale plum ground. I think it is both beautiful and charming and you could imagine that perhaps Violet Elmer had herself been inspired by a Victorian millefiori paperweight. The shape of those little flowers is so typical of millefiori.

Millefiori paperweight. Glass. 1832.

Inspired by or maybe stealing from artists from the past has a long tradition and I am happy to join in and make my own reinterpretation in a different medium.

It is just a pity that the silk I have painted was for those unglamorous, yet currently necessary, face coverings.

Inspired by a ceramic vase design.
And, another version.

PS – I actually painted these silk pieces during the second lockdown and have only just made them up into masks. Lockdowns have seemed to roll one into another. Sigh. And, now I hear they’ve cancelled Glastonbury and UEFA are also proposing this summer’s tournament to only take place in one country (and I have tickets for a game in Glasgow) and, well, Easter? šŸ¤žšŸ» Who knows!

Returning to Scarf Painting

After several months of working at a smaller scale painting patterns for silk masks, I have recently returned to painting scarves.

This change in scale is more tricky than it appears. I experienced and learnt that when I first started painting the smaller pieces for masks. With a move back to larger work I didn’t want to misjudge the gear shift whilst painting a full 90 x 90 cm square, so I have returned by first painting neckerchiefs.

Pinning out the 55 x 55 cm squares and loosely laying down the first outlines became a poignant experience as I reflected on the intervening seven months since I last worked on any scarves. I then reached for the darkest, dark blue I have and painted in the background.

2020 really has turned out to be a ghastly, ghastly year.

And, finally now, the 31st December, we can say goodbye and good riddance to it.

Painting Another Six

This is a short sequence showing the process of painting silk for masks. And, I will just say right here and now, at the beginning of this post, that I have since steamed this silk, made it up into masks and sold all six. Since the UK government introduced for England, the rule to wear a face covering in shops and on public transport, I have not been able to paint and make masks fast enough.

Painting the silk is not a speedy process and even though I have now made over 100 masks, I don’t seem to be getting any faster at sewing the silk into masks.

Drawing out different designs for the six masks.
The painting begins – piecemeal.
Over half completed.
Including a red design to offer a rather zingy mask.
Finally painting is finished and the silk is ready for steaming.

Adaptation

It has been both an interesting experience of adapting and a steep learning curve switching from painting silk scarves to painting and making silk face masks.

I am hoping it is a brief interlude as we wait for an effective vaccine – fingers crossed.

Naturally, the painting of the silk is the same, but painting for masks is generally on a much smaller scale. I have found that marking out rectangles is the most efficient and economic way to work. I have just finished a blue series of six different designs.

The sewing of the silk into face coverings has been the adapting and learning part. Making face masks isn’t difficult, just fiddly. Again it’s that scale issue. I have made clothing and curtains before, but nothing on this smaller size. I am not a natural machinist nor a gifted seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, but having now made over 70 masks, I am at least consistent. My early prototypes were ‘interesting’, but wearable, and I gave them to my daughter and my father and I kept a couple for myself.

Two of the above six have been sold.

Now, I am used to the making part it is a case of getting organised with the stock, the processing of orders and getting my books up-to-date.

Two of the six are available on the shop.

And, I have just checked- two of the silk rectangles from the above six blue are still waiting to be made into masks. Mmm not quite as organised as I thought I was!

A moment for a little reflection

The UK is now in lockdown, more or less. Everybody who can works from home and all non essential trips out of your house are prohibited, although, as yet, we don’t have the military on the streets enforcing these restrictions. With the ensuing quiet I have found myself more reflective than usual.

Now here’s a flitting stream of consciousness: . . . how did we get here . . . who is marshalling the NHS response . . . oh yes, that bloke who looks like a rabbit in the headlights, what’s his name . . . Hancock, yes, Matt Hancock . . . isn’t he the MP for West Suffolk, yes he is . . . other side of Bury St Edmunds . . . mmm, Bury . . . I wonder whether Blackthorpe Barn will run its Christmas Craft Fair later this year . . . that part of Suffolk is beautiful in winter . . . melancholy Suffolk . . . melancholy pines . . . ah the lonely Lady Drury and the Hawstead Panels.

Part of Lady Drury’s painted closet originally at Hawstead Place, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Now there was a woman who knew about reflection and meditation and solitude. Her solo endeavours, her painted closet, installed in the now temporarily closed Christchurch Mansion, is a visual expression of living a contemplative life.

The first scarf I sold from my online boutique back in 2013.

I have not been spending this disconcerting time on too much introspection, although I have been slowly working my way through my thousands of photographs, a process which turns out is intermittently thought-provoking. During this task I have come across pictures of earlier work I had completely forgotten as well as old rather poor quality photographs that I took when I first launched my online shop back in July 2013.

Another early piece I had forgotten about from 2013 inspired by a Wedgwood Fairyland lustreware candlestick.

One or two of the old photos had captured a look, an expression that was worth saving. Six or seven years ago, and particularly before my week’s photography course, I hadn’t realised how much tidying up, enhancing and, well to put it bluntly, cheating could be achieved with Photoshop.

Some light touching-up and colour adjustment using Photoshop.
Two old photographs merged with the help of Photoshop – obvious cheating!

Nowadays, with a solid five years’ plus of amateur experience under my belt, I am so much better at getting the photograph I want (eventually), but sometimes the circumstances defeat my grand intentions. This was the case on a visit last month to the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ Museum. Not quite the tightly focussed, intriguing image I was hoping for, but I can always blame the delicate distortions of the fine, antique eighteenth-century mirror.

Last month, February 2020, distorted reflections. An 18th-century mirror hanging in the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum, Brook Street, London, W1K 4HB.

Inspiration from the Wickham Market Hoard: The Freckenham ‘Horse’ Motif

Last week, I finished my post with a photograph of the beginnings of my new collection based on the Wickham Market Hoard. Strictly speaking it is the designs struck on the Freckenham and Snettisham staters that have caught my attention and specifically the charming horse symbol.

Once I had my version of the horse motif worked out and drawn up I could plan out the whole scarf design. I began this series using the smallest size scarf I paint, that’s the neckerchief square, but what colours for the initial interpretation?

Photomontage of flowers for colour combinations.

Well, it wasn’t difficult to decide as I had plenty of flower photographs capturing all the bright zing of summer blooms. When I pasted some of these together into various photomontages they offered a number of irresistible colour combinations. I chose the pink and red grouping. Below is a sequence of photos from start to finish recording painting the neckerchief where I incorporate my version of the glorious 2000 year old horse motif.

Mmm, the ‘blank canvas’ moment.
Outlines of resist all done and left to dry.
Painting in the colour.
Halfway done with only the horses to complete.
Finished and ready for steaming.

The first in my Freckenham series, the neckerchief ‘Freckenham Carmine’ is now finished and displayed on my shop.

Layering some Summer Colour

Now I am a fan of the colour green. In one way or another it has been a colour I have used in painting different rooms since my first house back in 1996. Of course, there are greens and greens. I remember the first time I used green it was a bright apple green and in a south-facing room it definitely had a hint of lime about it. At the same time I was painting the walls the plumber was installing the central heating and he could barely conceal his revulsion!

Back on the frame adding new gutta lines and shapes.

It appears that lime green is not a popular colour in our northern light and as we have so few days of summer sun when it looks really good, I reappraised the one lime green scarf on my shop and decided to give it the layer treatment.

Painting another layer filling the new shapes with pink, orange and pale turquoise.

Now, regular perusers of my blog will know that amongst the tools in my ‘creative process’ box layering is a technique I use to change my work and give it more depth.

I did like the flat pattern of the original, but I can see that the very nature of the flatness made the lime green less appealing especially in the photographs.

Over-painted, steamed again to fix the work and newly photographed and now uploaded to my online shop. I think it is definitely a more interesting piece.

Revisiting a less than successful design

Every now and then I find an idea I have been keen to develop for a scarf goes awry in the painting. This was the case when four years ago I attempted a ‘bluebells’ scarf.

The finished scarf was a delicate pale pink dotted with stems of bluebells. The pink was subtle in real life. It was a soft, easy colour to wear close to your face especially for those of us over fifty. However, this scarf when photographed, well, it looked totally washed out and almost dreary. And, now when reviewing the design, I see the overall appearance was too messy and busy, and failed to be dynamic. Time for change.

Initially I adjusted my creative process making some large and bold additions to the scarf. I overpainted with broad flowing brush marks of coloured resist in order to balance the small bluebell motifs.

I then added some mid-sized periwinkle like flowers in a bluey green and created depth to the whole piece by painting small areas of the background in black.

The scarf has been steamed again to fix the dyes and the finished, more interesting piece has now been added to my shop – click pic to see.

Another colourway

I never paint the same scarf twice. The combination of my loose, freehand gutta work and then the random way the dyes flow into each other make it an impossibility. However, I do roughly repeat a design in different colours. I usually paint four or five different colourways of the same design to produce a mini collection.

My recent visit to see the Hawstead Panels at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, inspired me to create a design for a neckerchief. The first one in this series based on the pines and wildflowers painted by Lady Hawstead, was a combination of blues and mouse brown.

Having established this basic design and feeling comfortable with the patterned components, I then moved on to a new colour combination.

Sequence of photos showing the process of adding more colour.

This neckerchief design is a mixture of techniques with thick, coloured gutta for the pine tree tops, single colours painted into delineated spaces and some resist layering.

Small area of simple layering.

I like resist layering, but you have to wait for the gutta to dry. This can be speeded up by using a hairdryer. Resist layering is where you add the clear gutta resist to a pale area in a pattern let it dry, then added a slightly darker dye, then add more clear gutta patterning let it dry and finally another layer of even darker dye. You are left with a more painterly effect and even a hint of brush marks or should I say daubs.

When all the dyes have been added and all the gutta has dried, the neckerchief is rolled in protective paper and steamed for two hours.

One neckerchief three different outfits

The finished neckerchief is photographed and added to my shop.

An Experiment with the Microwave

Beautiful-indigo-shibori-kimonosRecently, I have been reading about the traditional Japanese skill of Shibori. You’ve probably seen examples around as it has become very popular.

Shibori-text-Yoshiko-Iwamoto-Wada
‘Shibori’ by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wade, 1993. A useful book about Japanese resist dyeing. And, next to it, a double page from my 1982 book about tie dyeing showing basic pleating and knotting techniques.

Shibori is a dyeing method that involves folding and binding plain, undyed cloth and then submergingĀ the knotted cloth in a dye bath (traditionally indigo) to produce a patterned textile. It is a kind of tie dyeing and has been practiced in Asia and Africa for centuries. The process has been fine-tuned into a classic textile skill in Japan. Indeed the word Shibori comes from the verb root ‘shiboru’ which means to wring, squeeze or press.

Classic-examples
Double page spread of kimonos made from textiles dyed with indigo using various shibori folds and knotting techniques. From ‘Shibori’ by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wade, 1993.

I thought I’d have a go using a plain white, long, crepe de chine scarf. As it was a long scarf I first folded it four times to create a small square which I then pleated and bound into a sausage. I didn’t use a dye bath, but soaked parts of the sausage with two colours, magenta and a chestnut brown. The dyes were then fixed by a short burst in the microwave instead of the usual two hours in my big steamer.

Microwave-shibori-silkAbove is the result after the first microwave fix. I thought there was too much undyed white. It appears I didn’t soak the silk sausage with enough dye. There are some interesting patches of blending, but the whole scarf looks too much like basic tie dye. However, I did think it would make a good background for some overpainting with pale colours. Once I had finished painting the scarf I removed it from the frame, loosely folded it up and microwaved it again.

Ready-for-last-microwaveI found microwaving silk not for the faint-hearted as despiteĀ always including a small dish of water, the silk gets very hot indeed and there is a real risk of scorching and even catching on fire! It was a relief to plunge the hot silk into the cold water for a quick rinse.

Last-rinse

After the usual washing and pressing here is the finished result.

Autumn-banner-2-2018 copy

Talking Sales – a preview

ag-as-sale-banner-coming-soonGeneral question – ‘What happened to the January Sales?’

Answer ‘They’ve become the Boxing Day Sales’Ā 

I suppose I am old fashioned and I simply can’t get my head round going to the Sales the day after Christmas. When I was a student I worked the Christmas period in Selfridges in London. We definitely did not work on 26th December. According to ‘Visit London’ most famous department stores and major shopping malls will start their sales either on the 26th or 27th December.

Of course, many shops with an online presence will go live with their sales offering at one minute past midnight on Christmas Day. This year I’ve decided to have a New Year Sale. That is I’m going to reduce many of my scarves by 20% and the odd one or two by 50%. These price reductions will be effective for five days from next Thursday, 29th December until midnight Monday 2nd January 2017.

ag-as-sale-banner-coming-2

Here’s a preview of some of the scarves and textile art that will be in my saleĀ around the New Year. Oh and yes, as this is my last post before Christmas . . . . . .

S E A S O N’ S Ā  G R E E T I N G S Ā  T O Ā  Ā E V E R Y O N E.

scarves-in-sale-blog