February 2019

I am not sure how much progress I have made but I have made some! My life is still blighted by the lack of a proper internet connection, counting the minutes that I am on-line is really limiting, I have, however, discovered that a little negative feedback works wonders… Hopefully I will be connected before too long…. The good news is that I now have a ‘dirty’ sink so can start playing with dyes and printing again.

I have planned a new class for Birmingham, FOQ, in August and another for EPM, Ste Marie, in September.

I am throughly enjoying living away from the mountains and their snow, yes, it has been wet and windy (the latter really frightened me the night it approached the 120 kph.) but the longer and sunny days make up for it.

I decided to do Journal Quilts again this year, they are more prescriptive than previously and the first 4 have to be made using a sewing technique, I have used appliqué and paper piecing for the first two. They have links to India, the fabric used is sari scraps. The first carried on with my positive/negative thinking from last year and the second one used some pieces I had prepared and not used, it was then saddle stitched with silver thread which was given to me by my sewing machine repair man!

I have done two shows since the beginning of the year, the first was Fil’ Passion at Périgueux. It was a great chance to meet up with other artists. I received some very positive comments about my work, which is always nice and several people called it poetic, there is a first time for everything! I spent the show admiring the Russian rooftops stitched by Le Begonia D’Or I love the gold-work but I think it might have to wait for a future lifetime!

Two weeks later I was at Fils Croisés in Cholet; this was an excellent show concerning interest in my work, I even sold a small piece, I was not only interviewed by the local paper but also by the local television. I also had some very enthusiastic ladies who did a short lesson with me with great results.

 

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The extremely helpful sewing machine man even managed to service my machine during the show which was brilliant, I avoided having the lost feeling one has when one’s machine is away from home! Good planning meant that there was also time to visit the Textile Museum which still makes the traditional cotton handkerchiefs and which had samples of old ones, the brown ones were made for those who spat baccy…. There was even one with printed with battle techniques.

And of course there was the centre of Cholet near the hotel..

By walking, almost, daily I am constantly on the look out for interesting things to photograph which could morph in to future designs, whether it is a flower or a leaf, a bit of rusty metal or a building.

This year for Fifteen by Fifteen I am using the subjects to create a series based on the coastline around here. We have a lot of fishing huts on stilts, carrelets, which are very photogenic and I have used them in several pieces. The first Fifteen by Fifteen subject was ‘blooming’ so I used a couple of lines of poetry to kick start me and an old damask napkin and this is the result.

‘Tis the last rose of summer

Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

Are faded and gone.

Thomas Moore 1779 – 1852

I also did two hand stitched pieces, one was a carrelet but the other was a lady I saw in the women’s garden in Gunjur, The Gambia a few years ago. I had wanted to ‘do’ her for a while and it gave me chance to play with stitch to create texture while using some loose woven cotton which is the only fabric still woven in the Gambia.

Now the time has come to return to the workroom and stitch.

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December 2018

I can’t believe that more than six months have passed since my last entry. I think that being ‘rootless’ took a toll on my creativity, I spent four months in temporary accommodation and although there was plenty of space in which to stitch I couldn’t immerse myself in my work. I also had the excitement of being in a new environment where there was so much to do and discover, loads of inspiration and I took far too many photographs. I have ideas brewing in my head for future work but just need time to settle down and plan it!

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I finally moved into my permanent home in mid August but it wasn’t until mid September that I had more than a week at home, which meant unpacking my boxes, I had meant to do it slowly but I kept wondering where things were and had to hunt them out. In October and November I had a fair amount of English teaching, I can get on with work in progress at such times but to get the creativity going I need empty space in my head. I now have a workroom in which I am really comfortable and a design wall for the first time so I can step back and ponder. I have a plumber coming to look at installing a sink which I can use for dirty stuff so I am not in the kitchen sink with dye stuffs. I am amazed that, when they have space, people don’t have ‘dirty’ sinks but I suppose that with washing machines people don’t wash things any more, or I was conditioned that way as a child ! While I was renting I had no washing machine and did everything by hand and due to the lack of a ‘dirty’ sink I landed up washing everything in the bath. My garage won’t be used as such but is perfect as a wet room, on the chilly side during the winter but not impossible, a great space for cooking up potions…

I really don’t seem to have achieved much work since I last wrote, my 2018 journal quilts are finished and I am up to date with Fifteen by Fifteen with my ideas for the next year’s projects forming in my head. I have almost cut the two thousand plus squares for my nephew’s wedding quilt, I just need to get stitching, and I have been stitching a larger version of a small 7 inch square that I did. I have so many photos and ideas from various travels and the change in location has changed my view on how I work.

My journal quilts this year were pairs of positive and negative images.

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These two were inspired by the ebb and flow of the tide and the pols of water which come and go.

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I photographed this stone carving and transformed it using two parts of the pattern to create the positive and negative images.

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My Fifteen by Fifteen pieces had a series of 3 pieces which I based on a poem and wrote about previously, this is the last in the series which had to be using complementary colours.

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The final two pieces for the year were Squares followed by Rearranged, I chose to work the two as a mini series using fabrics I had dyed in indigo and which came from India. I continue to be interested in the the idea of jali screens and used stitching to add the ‘jalis’ to both pieces.

Squares: Woven storiesRe-arranged : Indian square dance

The minus side of the move is the internet connection, or the lack of it, I am on a 4G and I am battling to keep my usage down so that I have full strength connection for the full month otherwise I seem to spend the last week of each month with a speed which is almost in reverse. The result is that I connect for the minimum amount of time and don’t tend to stay on the computer very long so that there is no temptation to go online and read… the result is that I forget to do the important things like up dating this !

I will attempt to do better in 2019 even if they threaten me with a delay of 6 months for installing a line to the house so that I can have a normal connection.

In August I went to the festival of quilts for 3 days, I stewarded a couple of days I enjoy doing this as it actually makes me stop and look at work I wouldn’t otherwise look at. I often hear people being surprised that a quilt hasn’t achieved recognition but they often don’t look carefully, the idea or impact may be very strong but when one looks carefully it becomes obvious why it wasn’t a winner, then again it could be that it wasn’t entered in to the right category so it can’t be a winner, I really think that there should be someway of marking a quilt that is in the wrong category as a lesson to others. Then a month later I was at Ste Marie, I had a quilt exhibited as a result of the masterclass I had attended in 2018 with Denise Labadie.

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I also taught for two days, the first class was not full the second more than full which was very pleasing. It was however interesting to be criticised for giving a hand stitch class when more than half of the students thought it would be using a machine, I was worried that I had written the wrong information but when I checked afterwards it would seem that very few of the students had read the information to the end because it was clearly stated to be hand stitch. They did however all go away happy !

 

As I write I am preparing to exhibit and give workshops in January at Marsac and Cholet both of which are relatively near home.

6 months later….

How plans change! I vowed to be better at keeping this up to date but life got in the way! I went to Israel in February and while I was there I negotiated the sale of my house, since then day to day life, and the organisation of it, took over. I had a big exhibition at the Biennial Art Textile (BIAT) show in Villefranche sur Soane in April and then six days later I moved to the opposite side of France in to a temporary rental house. Once here I had to find a permanent home, that is now found and I will move definitively in mid-August. Needless to say that creativity has been on the back burner. I am now vowing to do better.

The visit to Israel was wonderful and I returned home with plenty of ideas for future textile work, I also taught lino cutting to a small class .

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Inspiration from nature,

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monuments

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desert landscapes,

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sculptures,

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churches,

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ruins

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IMG_1619the Dead Sea

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and market stalls.

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Back home it was non-stop stitching to finish everything for BIAT, as the work was virtually all new I didn’t want to post anything until the show was over. The work in the exhibition was inspired by my travels in India.

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I also taught a couple of workshops and had a piece in the event’s competition.

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Témoin du passage du temps

Since I have moved I have found it difficult to settle down to stitch, now I am getting back to textile work and the ideas are beginning to flow again. The change in the landscape is radical and there are so many ideas that I want to explore.

I have kept up to date with my journal quilts, this year working in pairs of positive and negative so at the end of the year there will be six pairs.

Fifteen by Fifteen started the year with reflections, then we started a series of three the first two have been completed the first was to be black and white, the second abstract and the third will be complimentary colours.

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The Port of Minimes, La Rochelle in the early evening

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The inspiration for the series is a poem written by Pavel Friedman (born 7/01/1921 in Prague – died 29/09/1944 in Auschwitz) dated June 4th 1942 entitled the Butterfly, which has the line “Only I never saw another butterfly”….

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January 2018

Scan 7

Happy New Year. I reckon with the weather that we are experiencing at present things can only get better. I did end the year by doing some snow dyeing, it was meant to be the first of a batch for my stash but the snow is now so saturated and the thought of going out in the rain has dampened my enthusiasm. I decided to play with primary colours and black;

I tend to leave it outside until it melts but this time after a couple of days I finished it off inside as the temperatures didn’t rise sufficiently!

I am conscious that I have not written anything for a while, it is actually due to the fact that I have been producing work, I am working for an exhibition at Biennale Internationale d’Art Textile in April and I have decided to keep my work under wraps until it has been exhibited. I have been printing and stitching to produce a body of work inspired by my visit to India. I did my largest lino print to date, not easy in a  small space as I had to print it 12 times to get the required size; I am now finishing it off. More of that in a future post.

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The last 15 by 15 quilt was on the subject of water and I decided on the subject of Lake Beringo, in Kenya, which a few years ago had an unprecedented rise in water levels which destroyed the lakeside. Working on cotton/silk fabric I painted the background wrapped round a jar and then machine stitched the paint lines. I added rocks by cutting the fabric and inserting them, the trees were stitched separately and then inserted in the same way.

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My journal quilts were finished off, one using painted fabric and appliqué and the other quite simply hand stitched both were inspired from Moroccan tile designs. They were designed for hand-stitching during the show at La Roche-sur Foron.

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The end of the year meant that I could photograph all twelve of my 11 inch journal quilts together. I really enjoy producing a small quilt each month, it allows me to try new ideas which I can use as teaching samples of inspiration for larger work.

Caroline.Higgs-Black and whitre plus touch of colour

To finish off the year I did a portrait of a friend’s dog for her Christmas present, normally I just stitch bu this timeI added paint beforehand which gave more depth to the picture, it was a small 10 cm square mounted on a frame.

HIGGS. Bretzel

Now back to stitching….

 

 

Autumn

As the leaves fall from the trees I realise how long it is since I updated this page. I like to add new work to prove that I am working but I don’t post any major work until it has been exhibited, so because I have been working on one piece for so long I don’t have much to show for the time being.  This is a small detail of the work in progress:

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Having returned from the Birmingham I was inspired to have a go at marbling and it is something that I will go back to. I had a trial run by marbling some ladies for my September JQ, I marbled, appliquéd and on to a commercial fabric which I hand quilted to highlight the vertical lines. I kept it simple but now want to have another go with brighter colours.

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Mid September was the Carrefour Européen at Ste Marie aux Mines in Alsace. The weather was cold and wet but it was a good show, and as usual the networking was great. I was really impressed by the Zero 3 ‘s Signature IX exhibition and that of Ian Berry who works in denim with incredible attention to detail.

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After the show I went on to do a four day course with Denise Labadie, two days of making a mess with paint and then two days of stitching. It remotivated with fabric painting which I have always enjoyed but she really opened my eyes to the ways in which I could use it. We worked from photos so were aiming at personalised colour palettes.

Needless to say I haven’t yet finished my work but I will find the tile to get back to it soon. Very unexpectedly the hotel we were staying in had some wonderful samplers and small dress hanging in the dining room, they were behind glass but the attention to detail was fantastic and they were very well conserved.

 

While I was away I had my October JQ with me to stitch, I was playing around with a stencil and a flour resist screen. Once the colours were stencilled I concentrated on stitching the background, the idea was to seed stitch with black thread to darken the background fabric.

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The end of September was the reveal for the final piece of the Fifteen by Fifteen series. I worked with the same motifs for all five pieces and actually worked them one after the other  because the ideas flowed. This one was using a piece that I had dyed a couple of years ago and fitted perfectly for the centre piece, I then printed some other fabric from the same dye session as the border. The motifs are hand stitched and some added glittery flower centres completed it.

The full series is below with the original photograph which was my starting point and which I photographed in Bagru, India, which is known for its indigo dyeing which makes the  last piece all the more relevant.

 

Mid October and there was a Creative show just down the road which I had signed up to as an exhibitor. In all there were only 5 of us exhibiting, one of whom was Chantal Guillermet, and we were placed in a dead-end corridor but the visitors we did have were those who chose to come and have a look so were actually interested. I got a lot of hand stitching done and had some really good and encouraging conversations. It is good to hear want people think and not necessarily those who are, themselves, involved in textiles. The photo quality isn’t good but it was a great exhibition space.

With the autumn weather I was inspired to go  for a walk and collect some leaves to have a go at eco-printing. The leaf colours are quite beautiful, and the iridescence of some of them is incredible. The fungi in the lower part of the wood  were really interesting and inspiration started flowing…

Once home I cooked up some leaves and the results were promising, although at the moment I really don’t need any more fabric so I will have to tie my hands behind my back until I get my next exhibition for the International Biennial, in Beaujolais, finished.

Yesterday, thanks to the advice of somebody I met last weekend, I went to two art exhibitions further down the valley. I didn’t know what to expect but I was really impressed, I hadn’t realised how many truly talented artists are living and working in this area. At the fist one in Viuz-en-Sallaz there were two artists who really attracted my attention. One was Lilian Gailly who works recycling cardboard in to sculptures, the transparency of  some of the pieces really appealed to me.

 

The other was Anne Liger-Mercier who works with locally collected vegetation, her work really inspired me and we had a really long discussion about the methods she uses.

The final exhibition was good,  a really good mix of different styles of painting and sculptures.

 

August

All my good intentions of keeping up to date with this page seem to have gone by the wayside, but being away from home rather frequently means that while I am at home I have my day time work to attend to and then I need sewing time…

In June I was lucky enough to be invited to Israel to teach at the Israeli Quilter’s Guild’s annual meeting. What a brilliant experience! Two day classes which were both full of really keen and eager students. I taught two different classes encouraging the students to work on their own ideas in ways that were new to them, stitching from their own photos and stencilling with Inktense blocks.

 

During my week I visited Caesarea, Tel Aviv and Jaffa, Jerusalem, Acre and Haifa amongst others, they were so many things to see, ancient and modern, man-made and natural and of course the sea was never far away. The first real surprise was the bird mosaic which you could just walk all over…

In Jerusalem we visited the museum which had, above the usual exhibitions, an exhibition of the work of the outspoken Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, truly mind-blowing, I found his 2016 Odyssey wallpaper breathtaking, probably because of the subject of immigration….

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There were textiles from all over the world as well as ceramics all of which had inspirational patterns and motifs, and a statue of Hadrian which I was rather taken by.

Despite being the end of Ramadan we visited the old town of Jerusalem, I just loved the old streets and the few shops which we explored.

I could go on for ages with where we went and what we did but below are other photographs which demonstrate the richness of inspirational designs.

Since I got home I put my head down and did some sewing. My visit to the Gambia, and the exhibition I saw in Venice,  inspired me to do another quilt about the futility of migration, having talked to young in the Gambia who all know people who have the left the ‘back way’ so using fabric which was dyed with kola nuts and indigo in the Gambia I produced the following:

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The text says, “such is their pride, their folly or their fate”….

I also produce a small portrait ( 6″ x 4”) for the Through Our Hands, Save the Children portrait shuffle, it is from a photograph I took in Kenya of a lady with a severely handicapped daughter…

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The July/August edition of Magic Patch published an article about me and my work which was very wonderful even if some of the text is not exact…

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Other work I have done are my journal quilts, continuing the black and white with a flash of colour. Some have worked better than others but that is the idea of journal Quilts, it gives you the chance to play with ideas which can then we taken as a starting point for other things. The first is one I made after looking at Murano glass in Venice, the island of Murano has no shortage of glass shops and there are designs which are repeated in each. The quilts itself hasn’t worked as well as I had hoped…

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Then there was the drain cover in old Jaffa which attracted my attention and was a good excuse to play with stencils on a commercially dyed back drop. A little artistic licence crept in to make the motifs fit the size of the quilt!

The most recent JQ was using lino blocks that I had cut for a larger project and wanted to trial. It was an interesting exercise because the design which i saw at the Red Fort in Agra actually required two lino blocks because the design is symmetrical.

In July I spent a day in London and visited the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, although I have read about him and heard him talk on radio 4 it was the first time that i have seen his work, the Battle of Britain tapestry blew me away, the detail and the amount of information that he managed to include in this piece is amazing as are the references to tradition quilts.

After a hectic 4 days at the festival of Quilts where I was teaching again I am home and trying to make headway with the house and garden which have been seriously neglected these last few months. September will see me at EPM in Ste Marie, Alsace where after the show i am doing a 4 day course with Denise Labadie, watch this space….

 

An escapade…

The advantage of living on the Franco-Swiss-Italian border is that so many places are so easily accessible, and that is why I found myself spending the better part of last week in Venice, well Cavallino to be exact. Dijanne knows Venice very well and it was really good to be with somebody who knew where they were going. I am sure that I am going to asked what I saw, the easy answer is that I saw Venice, there is so much to see and do and all except the fourth day it was lovely weather and we walked. Staying where we were meant taking the boat and by buying a 72 hour transport pass we managed to spread it over 4 days.

The first afternoon was spent on Burano which is known for its lace making, a lot of the lace is now made elsewhere but we did meet some ladies working in a couple of the shops. One shop had an enormous private collection of old lace, a lot of which we were unable to access due to renovation work but what we did see was wonderful and dated back to the 1600s.

The island itself is beautiful, the houses are all brightly painted in all manner of colours and away from the main street there are very few people and it is very peaceful. (In fact that was the same for Venice itself, we were ‘out’ of high season but with an average of 100,000 tourists a day there were still people around.)

There were inspirational  ideas for future textile work everywhere I looked and I hadn’t even got to Venice, I just love the haphazard juxtaposition of the colours, reflections and shadows…

We decided to make the most of our time by getting the 6.59 boat in the mornings to avoid the crowds, this was an excellent idea and the first morning we changed boats and went on up the Grand Canal.

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Before visiting somewhere as well photographed one obviously has an idea of what one is going to see but I found it far larger than I had expected. Due to the early hour the ‘trade’ boats were about and busy and it really made one realise how complicated living in the city must be. I love the wine jeraboams and the rather smart chairs with the delivery crew sitting on them:

Then of course there were the more artistic sites:

IMG_0793Walking around a place so full of inspiration one is always drawn to the things which have a personal design dimension. There was a lot of wrought iron work which suits my growing library of photographs for a future project, there were as one might expect masks.

Then we managed to be in Piazza San Marco while it was empty, well there were the pigeons but very few people, the real plus was being able to have a quick look at the interior of the Duomo before it opened to the public, sadly no photographs are allowed inside, but then something has to be left in one’s personal memory card. The work on the outside of the Duomo is stunning, the sort of building where one would see something different at each visit.

There are then also the sights which are unexpected.

IMG_0944Two things happened which were totally unplanned and really good. It was the  beginning of the Venice Biennial which we had thought that we would visit but the more that we learnt about it and after visiting one of the fringe events we decided that it wasn’t for us, it seems to involve a lot of film and sound. However as we went back to the boat we found an independent exhibition of work by a Bosnian artist, Safet Zec, who now lives in Venice. I had to leave the exhibition because the emotion he expressed in his work was too much for me. I did go back in and we visited again a second time but we were both blown away by the emotion  expresses in his work. This particular exhibition, Exodus, “draws from the biblical dimension of the exodus of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe” and is a subject which has made such an impression on me after me visits to the Gambia. The artist himself has “experienced eradication, escape and exile when with his family he was forced to abandon Bosnia and their war torn city, Sarajevo”.

I don’t usually post pictures of other people’s work but this exhibition moved me more than anything else I have ever seen, this is just a small part of one of the main pieces :

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On a more cheerful front we did a morning of mosaic at a studio which opened at the beginning of the year and which is run by two mosaic masters Alessandra de Gennaro and Romuald Mesdagh. It was a really good experience to be taught by somebody who is so passionate about their craft and who is so happy to share their knowledge, I became far more engrossed that I had expected to be and actually managed to finish my small square. While we were working I got chatting to Romuald in French and found that he had lived very near me years ago which was such a coincidence.img_1015-2.jpgThis is one piece in their studio which I really liked, mosaic in a modern form. They also work in glass and produce wonderful commissions http://www.artefactmosaic.com. The final photo shows Dijanne discussing something with Romuald and Alessandro in their studio at the end of our course. (In the background of the photo is the most wonderful print shop which produces unusual small books and lino-cuts).

IMG_1014 2Now all I have to do is find the time to use all my ideas. I have come back with a new pen and some great powder paints from a shop which has the most incredible range of natural pigments.