It is August and thoughts naturally turn to . . . Christmas . . . !
Sorry, but I am afraid it’s not just the big brands that are preparing for Christmas in August, but we folk selling handmade items are also busy working towards the ‘gift’ season.
This week there has been excellent early morning sunshine and the river has been like a misted mirror reflecting gorgeous, natural light. In other words it has been ideal for a photoshoot.
And, having ten scarves ready for photographing, including a couple of ‘Christmassy’ ones, it was off to the banks of the River Orwell.
It is approximately a 300 metre walk down hill through deciduous woodland from the car park to the banks of the river. Then a short walk along the shore for a set up just downriver from the Orwell Bridge.
It is a popular place for dog walkers and people wishing to picnic at the water’s edge or even swim in the river. It is also an interesting place for photographing my work as the light is similar to that reflecting off the sea, but the area is more sheltered than the coast with less wind to blow the scarves about.
We had a couple of hours taking pictures before the sunlight became too bright and also, at this time of year, too hot.
By the time we had finished I had taken over 500 shots of varying quality. The sun was high in the sky, the mist had burnt off and it was time to pack up. Fortunately, the traipse back up the hill was not as arduous in the heat as it might have been, but was surprisingly pleasant thanks to the cool, airy shade of the woodland.
This time next week it will be Valentine’s Day. I do have a couple of red scarves on my online shop at the moment, but they don’t feel classically romantic to me. They’re too bright and, too, well, red.
Thinking about it in an old-fashioned way and despite the supermarket aisles of red Valentine’s merchandise, I find I associate the colour pink with romance more than red.
So with romance in mind for this Valentine’s post I have put together a selection of my work that features pink more or less.
The first scarf (at the top) has accents of zingy fuchsia, but the rest of this mini collection are all rather dusky, muted affairs.
In general I think that softer pinks are easier to wear, and, who doesn’t like a touch of pink lippy every now and then.
It 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.
I have been lucky enough to be selected for this showcase and two of my scarves have been featured.
I 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?
Most of the scarves I sell are bought as gifts. And, whether my customer is buying from me in real life, or online, I carefully fold each scarf within acid free tissue paper and place it in a box. Now there is more to boxes than just simply being a cardboard container.
Originally I chose a pale blue and black box design with a blue and black image on the lid. It was okay, but I always felt the boxes were too deep for a silk scarf.
Last year I changed my supplier and now have plain matt black boxes the appropriate depth.
Initially, I added my pink and black colourful logo to the lid. However, I didn’t think it really worked, so . . .
. . . for my recent outing selling my work at ‘British Crafts at Blackthorpe Barn’ I decided to change the design for the lid to give a more muted appearance.
Mind you, the rest of my display was so full of colour, pattern and ornate props, I doubt anybody noticed the appearance of the boxes!
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
Change of season and change of mood and I’m feeling like working stripes into my more floral scarf designs. Looking at Mother Nature’s versions of decorative streaks has given me a good place to start.
Some variations of Morning Glory have been worth stripping back to a slightly less intricate rendering and then worked with different colour combinations.
However, although these ideas would work well if I was screen-printing them onto a scarf, my freehand, painting style needs to have a looser starting point. I thought I’d combine these heavier looking floral shapes with my recent fennel inspired motifs.
Here’s work in progress of a version I’ve created combining the two ideas.
When I started my online shop three years ago getting to grips with product photography was essential. I found that photographing my painted scarves to achieve the nearest representation to how they appeared in reality in normal daylight, was a major issue.
Inaccurate colour, poor skin tones. 2013
Cleaner and more accurate colours. 2014 And scarf sold.
Recently I attempted to model my own work so I could catch the best ambient light. The colour accuracy of the two examples below is probably the nearest to real life I’ve managed. It was outside with bright, but overcast skies. However, pin sharp focussing proved virtually impossible working on my own with the camera on the timer. And, in the end I discovered that it takes a very special photographer that can make a back view interesting particularly against a bland background. And, that’s not me!
Modelling my own work Full Square One
Modelling Venus Falls Blue/lilac
Of course not all my work ends up for sale as with any hand process some pieces just don’t make the grade. After steaming I make a close inspection and sometimes a fault previously invisible shows up or water in the steaming process has spoilt the design. Naturally these don’t end up in one of my rag wall hangings like the offcuts do, but instead I wear them in my everyday life. Obviously, these rejects pop up in informal pictures taken by other people. Below, I’m just in from picking up folks at the local railway station! Focus is good, colour accuracy is pretty precise too, but oh my goodness somebody is always pulling a stupid face!!!
Then there are the pics taken on other peoples’ mobiles – more silly faces and now poor quality as the images get rendered across different devices.
Finally, and oddly for me, one of my more spirited photos showing me wearing my work, is a selfie! It shows an eccentric use of a couple of my old art silk scarves. Last summer I was turning my compost in the back garden when I unwittingly disturbed the beginnings of a bee colony and had to take some hasty precautions not to get stung to bits.
Last weekend I noticed in the supermarket a whole aisle of red and pink stuff. As Halloween is a black and orange affair and Christmas is white, red and green and Easter has been yellow for decades, it is now usual to colour-code Valentine’s Day. That’s red and pink. With a couple of weeks to Valentine’s Day there’s going to be plenty of red and pink in the shops.
Not wanting to buck the trend or frighten the horses I’m posting photos of some pink and pinkish scarves. Pink for your Valentine is, apparently, the order of the day. I do have some red scarves too, but pink, especially pale pink, is often more flattering particularly when worn near the face.
It’s been an odd few weeks. The weather here in East Anglia as with the rest of the UK has been incredibly mild for December. There’s talk it will be the warmest December for over 70 years! Needless to say the garden has a few plants still blooming and some bursting forth completely at the wrong time of year – an early summer hardy geranium is coming into flower.
I’m currently working on a couple of long silk twill scarves and belatedly noticed that I had chosen a palette that was a reflection of the colours outside my studio/office window.
I hadn’t actively looked for inspiration from the garden. I simply felt I wanted to work with rich browns and muddy greens and soft muted pinks.
Don’t you just love our flexible outlook on life? Most of us have that strange ability to hold two totally opposing views at the same time. Here on Planet Earth we happily buy and sell to each other all round the globe, but at the same time we applaud the idea of ‘buying locally’. Luckily for me my scarves when boxed up are small and light so earlier this year shipping to Singapore was as easy as shipping down the road to the next county. On Monday of this week my work was chosen to appear in the current UKHandmade Showcase ‘Textiles’.
I guess we like the idea of shopping locally as we feel connected to our town, region or even broadly our country. Sometimes, and I think this is particularly so with handmade craft pieces, there is often a reflection or essence of place in an artisan made object. Designer-makers, along with fine artists frequently cite their environment as a major source of inspiration. There can’t be a finer example of the importance of place as inspiration than the magnificent Maggi Hambling work ‘Scallop’ a tribute to Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten. The Suffolk coast was, of course, the inspiration for Britten’s ‘Sea Interludes’ and Suffolk born Hambling says of her work
“An important part of my concept is that at the centre of the sculpture, where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea.”