Springtime at home….

I started the year with so many good intentions of keeping this blog up to date but ‘life’ had other ideas, difficult to write when one has nothing to say and one’s horizons have been clipped or should I say severed.

After the show at Cholet I was gearing up to four days at BIAT, Villefranche-sur Soane and a days’s teaching at Pour l’Amour du Fil at Nantes and then Covid19 came along….. slowly but steadily things were cancelled or rather postponed.  Now well in to the second month of confinement I find that in many ways life hasn’t actually changed that much. I am, fortunately, use to being on my own and spending time sewing and I have plenty of projects to occupy me. I set myself some targets for the confinement but as usual I think that maybe they were over ambitious, I didn’t build in time for grey periods…. When the sun shines I feel full of energy and all feels well with the world, or at least my little corner, the house is flooded with sunlight and I can throw the doors open and even work outside in what I call my garden . That is another story, the lawn is more weeds than grass but it is very neatly mown and fairly regularly, most of the growing area is weeded but lacks plants and the parts which aren’t weeded are too dry to be able to extract the roots of the weeds. If I am lucky I will have a couple of parsnips and some pick again salad… The bird song is fantastic and there is a hoopoe is doing a great job on eating the grubs in the lawn.

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I reckon that when I come out the other side I am going to wonder what I did with my time, each project I start takes longer than expected to finish and then I spent time earlier this week making masks, didn’t think it would take very long but 30 masks later I wondered where the time had gone. The plus of this lockdown period is Textile Artist.org who have organised weekly challenges with different artists, there is a video on a Monday and then a questions and answers FaceBook session on the Friday, even if I haven’t actually found the time to sew all the challenges they have been really interesting and informative. I am still doing my on-line course with Sue Stone but that has been temporarily put on the back burner and I can’t wait to finish the project I am doing to return to it. Ideas are now flowing far too fast.

The main consequence of the lockdown is that I can’t walk more than a 1 km radius from the house which means that there is not much chance to get out of the village, there is one lane around a field of flax flowers from where I can see the coast but it is a little like drink driving easy not to do do it at all than be frustrated ……

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I try and keep interested in the natural world by photographing flowers most of which have been in the garden, that source is now just about finished for the time being but it is amazing what one can find when one looks

 

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I have made the March journal quilt, I photographed a tuft of grass growing in a crack of the tarmac in the car-park at Cholet, I heavily quilted black wadding and then added the grass using an old veggie net and some plastic ribbon.

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April journal quilt, based on an old tie I created a snail shell by hand stitching the motif on the tie after having machine stitched the motif itself. The inner part of the shell is painted with Inktense.

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The end of March also brought the second Fifteen by Fifteen piece of the year. This time it was the letter ‘P’ and I was inspired by my visit to Pisa, the buildings were created in layers and the background quilted with the design of a wrought iron balcony I also photographed while I was there. I sun-printed  the sky and the word Pisa which are like clouds in the sky…

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I am still producing work

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and yesterday I painted the background for a new piece which I am really happy with.

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I have hit a slight block with another piece I am machine appliquéing at the present because the thread keeps breaking and I can’t change thread because it would show so after a couple of days of trying different machine breaking two needles and loosing patience I have put it to one side for the time being! Onwards and upwards I am not going anywhere in the near future so hopefully time I will soon feel a sense of achievement, roll on May 11th when I will once again be able to go on long walks even if they have to be solitary. The real plus is that at last my garage has turned in to the work and storage space I wanted and it is tidy!

 

February 2020

Another month has slipped through my fingers and I don’t seem to have got a lot to show for it. As January drew to a close I went to Cholet to exhibit at Fils Croisés, I hung a a mix of old and new works. Working on one’s own it is always good to share one’s work with the public and very rewarding when it provokes an emotional response as was the case several times.

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This is a new piece that I made straight after the fire at Notre Dame, Paris. I took a while because, at first, I wasn’t happy with it. After storing it away for a couple of months I took it out and reworked the stitching. It is rare that I don’t use my own photos but this image really cried out to be worked.

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This is a second new piece which I did after the Cholet show in 2019.

As I was preparing my things to leave for Fils Croisés I realised that i needed a photo of myself, instead of a photograph I did a quick stitched portrait.

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I am really bad at taking photographs of other people’s work but here are some which I really liked, some are overall shots some are close-ups.

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Chantal Guillermet had a big exhibition with an interesting collection of her work and this photo really doesn’t do it justice.

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Marie-Christine Hourdebaigt also had a very interesting exhibition.

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Galla had the biggest space and was showing work of her own and her students, the individual image is that of one of her students ( Galina Bogdanova) which I particularly liked due to its muted colours.

Stephanie Michaud was next door to me, I had seen her drawn threadwork work previously and I really admire it.

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Embroidery by Nicole Jarret, her smaller pieces are really attractive.

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Jacqueline Jégou’s thread painting is painstakingly worked and really grabbed my attention.

Finally France Patchwork had a really colourful and varied exhibition reflected in their banner.

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At the end of January it was the latest Fifteen by Fifteen reveal. This year we are working with letters of the English alphabet. I have chosen to create a series of places I have visited and am using the morse code symbols as an additional link between pieces.

S : Suzdal

S for Suzdal. I have used a couple of the many photographs I took in Suzdal as the inspiration for this piece. The inner panel, the view through the window, is machine stitched and then coloured with aquarelle pencils, I wanted there to be colour but it need to be soft. The front is then hand painted and stencilled with the brown panels appliquéd. 

Lastly I have completed the second journal quilt of the year using things that have been used previously, in this case a piece of lace that I have transformed into a hedge. My theme this year is out and about, I often pass the ostrich farm when I go out for a walk and it is down a lane lined with high hedges…

Caroline Higgs - February 2020

February is going to pass by very fast and I have dead-lines to meet so back to the drawing board….

January 2020

Wishing everybody health, wealth and happiness for 2020.

With the festive season season I can look back over the last month and see that I have made progress. The holiday season is a quiet time for me and one which tends to be productive, the somewhat uncertain weather has helped.

A project which had been hanging over me all year was finally finished and sent, I was told it would take a week to arrive in the UK, it took three days, a true miracle and a great relief. It was a wedding present for my nephew and his wife who got married in 2018… a king size bed quilt which could be reversible according to their mood. Piecing took ages and then every other square was hand quilted, it actually was easier to sew than I had anticipated. The idea was to quilt throughout the autumn and finish around the time I finished with teaching English, and yes, I managed it!

The ‘back’ over the quilt
The front, it is so big I couldn’t get it all in to the photo.
The centre with their initials and wedding date.

Other work has also been in progress, I have started the journal quilts for the Contemporary group, this year nine inch squares using recycled/found objects. I have opted for the subject of Out and About as my title and the first was made using a piece of very old table cloth which was coloured with with fabric paints. The old square is mounted on some snow dyed cotton reflecting the muddy estuary…

I have also photographed all my 2019 quilts together, the first column being India, the second Israel and the third Russia.

On Christmas day I went for a walk around the town of Saintes, a little south from here. It was a perfect day for a visit, the sun was shining and there were very few people around, easy to park and the churches were all open to visit. The Charente river was in flood and there were some streets under water, the reflections were stunning.

Not such fun for those in these houses…
In the late afternoon sunlight…

One of the joys was finding a whole series of ,at what were at first glance, woven tapestries but in fact were hand stitched wool embroideries. As far as I can work out they were designed by Jean-François Favre and stitched by the Christian Community of the Abbaye aux Dames.

In the cathedral it is of St Peter sitting on a throne…
Three of the Genesis series in the abbey church

It was really lovely to be able to look at them really closely even if the presence of a piercing fire alarm ringing in the church meant that I didn’t linger too long.

As well as making new pieces for the forthcoming shows, Cholet at the end of the month, BIAT in April and St Jean d’Angely in June, I am doing an on-line class with Sue Stone in an attempt to improve the way I work with images of people and I am also doing a 30 day sketch-book challenge, the later is making me realise that maybe I am best to stick with fabric….

These are two images that I have reproduced in the first part of the Sue Stone course;

Other work, I have finished or which is progress, will be revealed here when it has first been shown in public. I am finding the challenge of doing a course alongside my own creating very rewarding, it means that there is always something to hand stitch in the evenings….

December 2019

Autumn is meant to be the season of mellow fruitfulness, but for me, one word describes this season, which is morphing into winter, and that is soggy. In theory that means that I have sent more time in the workroom, in practice I am not so sure!

I finished the last of my series of the coastline for Fifteen by Fifteen, this time the subject was Music and the title ‘All in the Mind’. Ideas turned in my head for a long time but once I had found the song ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay’ I knew that I had what I wanted. It is by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper and I simply couldn’t get the tune out of my head although the song itself is about the Bay of San Fransisco it suited the ideas I had. I persuaded three friends to pose on a bench and then I constructed the image around them. With the music forming the waves and the ships cut in lino and printed on an underlying layer of organdie. A second piece of organdie was painted blue and overlaid before the quilting was applied. The foreground was assembled with appliqué and stitched by hand and machine.

The detail shows how the quilting was done is groups of five lines like bars of music and the notes were silvery ‘v’s rather like birds flying across the sea.

My journal quilts were also completed, I had split the year in to experiences /inspiration from three different countries this last group are inspired by my visit to Russia. The first one is using aquarelle and intense crayons and represents the coloured houses in the trees around Ples which is on the Volga river. I printed the houses with a wood block and then coloured them before adding the trees, some of which were also printed with a woodblock. Machine quilting was then added.

The result pleased me and may well be developed further at a different scale, this is only A4. For the final one I choose to work the background with paint sticks and then apply the image printed on Extravangaza, the disadvantage of extravaganza is the it is not A4 so I added a binding which I attempted to blend into the background. The image is of two chairs which I saw sitting in the garden of a farm we visited, I like the folkiness of the image. I won’t be returning to this one but doing journal quilts each month give me to try things I wouldn’t otherwise do, some are more pleasing than others.

Otherwise I have been quilting the big quilt, to date, there are only 100 of the over 2000 squares still to quilt and the binding to finish. I will add some embroidered details to personalise it and then it will be done. The idea was that it would be finished by the time that I stop teaching English at the end of the week, I am more or less on track. I have also almost finished another piece for an exhibition later in the year.

Next year looks busy kicking off with exhibiting at Cholet at the end of January and BIAT, Villefranche-sur-Soane in April followed a few days later with teaching a couple of classes at Pour l’Amour du Fil, Nantes. Plenty to keep me occupied and on my toes.

Wishing everybody a happy end to 2019 and a great start to 2020.

Feeling like a kid with a new toy…

Finally I have internet 11 months after requesting it, finished are the days of counting how minutes I was on-line and unable to watch videos, make video calls etc….

Since I last wrote so much has happened. At the end of July I drove to the UK , in part to attend the festival of Quilts where I had a half day class to teach. I then flew to Moscow to attend and teach at the Suzdal Quilt Festival. In September I had a piece on exhibition near home and then I headed to Ste marie for the European patchwork meeting where I gave a day class. Now I am at home and have time to stitch again in earnest for next year which promises to be busy.

I finally caught up with my journal quilts, the July and August pieces were to be made using materials other than the traditional ones, I chose to make this group of 4 based on photos and experiences in Israel. Tow have been posted previously.

 

 

July’s is based on a work by Jacob El Hanini that I saw in the Tel Aviv Modern art museum. Fine corrugated card stitched with rayon thread and bound with a waist tie off a hospital gown…

August’s is based on a photo I took in Israel of a river with roots hanging just above the water line. My target was to make something that didn’t take very long. Lutrador rocks, nylon water stitched in silver and miscellaneous fibres: an experiment I won’t be returning to!

The interesting challenge of these journal quilts is pushing one’s limits to try alternative ways of working. One can experiment and either take the idea to another level or file it away as something which won’t go any further.

The last four are to be made using different techniques for the background which I am much happier with and will be based on inspiration from my visit to Russia. The first didn’t quite work as well as I had hoped the background was sun printed on a piece of old sheet with a commercial product which was rather old, plus the wind started blowing while I wasn’t looking. The result was a flop until I looked at the back…

There have also been two new Fifteen by Fifteen quilts, one at the end of July and one at the end of September. I am working on the theme of the coastline near here and am trying incorporate all the six subjects into this theme to create series.

July’s subject was flight: Natural and Manmade

September’s was Photoshoot:

I wanted to show a little of the history of the area which is known for its mussels and oysters. I used a photograph on a signpost and enhanced the clothing with patterned fabrics and highly stitched by hand and machine to create life and texture.

The local exhibition was on the subject of animals which is not a subject that I am totally comfortable with. The group is an art group comprised of artists using different media and I find this a very interesting means for exhibiting some of my work. We had to choose an animal starting with the letter of the alphabet that we were given I landed up with ‘N’, not easy but finally I found a sheep called a Navajo-Churro and I contacted the association for these sheep and Bonnie Barcus very kindly sent me a photograph of her ram Ceasar and gave me permission to use it.

I worked it on a fairly rigid felt and then mounted it on a frame. The background of the sheep is a fine wool jersey, the horns are painted bark cloth and the fleece is fleece, mainly hand-stitched but with some machine stitch. Bonnie was pleased with the result and she is putting the photo into their newsletter…

Teaching in Birmingham went really well and I had a lovely group of students who produced some great results.

The Russian students were so enthusiastic and diligent, I taught three classes and thanks to the translators the results were stunning.

All these samples are work in progress, when I teach the aim is to give students the techniques and encourage them to create their own designs which can be further worked on at home.

At EPM in Ste Marie the class were also very keen and enthusiastic and we spent a great day together. Again the results were brilliant.

After a great 4 days in Ste Marie-aux-Mines I returned home and vowed to continue with a very long over due project to make a king size quilt for my nephew. They chose the pattern that they wanted and then they asked for a jazzy back so that they could choose which side to use. The front has around 2000 small squares and so I used large brick shaped blocks for the back as I am hand quilting and wanted to keep the seams as far apart as possible. Last Sunday was a grey day and the usual weekly walk was cancelled so I sat at the machine and stitched the back.

The quilt is now blocked and the long task of hand-stitching has begun, the longer evenings will be well occupied! Other projects are in the pipe-line but photographs of full pieces won’t appear on this page as they are all for upcoming exhibitions, teasers will appear from time to time….

I could add a whole list of photos that I have taken during these last few months but I would much rather be sewing…. As I hope to use some as inspiration so there will be glimpses of all I have experienced over the months to come.

Lazy days of summer….

I am alarmed to see how long it is since I updated these pages, life has flown by and still without internet so I am still counting the minutes, hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will soon have a fibre optic connection… watch this space. Except that when they came I discovered that the casing for the wires is blocked so no further forward…. I can’t believe how difficult it is proving to be connected.

Since I last updated I have been busy, I don’t like putting new pieces up before they have been exhibited, I have completed one big one and given up, for the time being, on another as it was not giving the result I wanted, maybe I will pick it up again one day. I have had a fair amount of English teaching and two separate weeks away walking with the local group, I now have a library full of inspirational photographs. One of the club members suggested that I gave a show of my photos but my view is very related to how I could use them as inspiration for stitching, textures, pattern, shape etc. so I don’t think anybody other than me would find them very entertaining.

This is a mix from Italy, the Cinque Terra, Florence and Pisa with not outstanding weather in May

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Belle Ile in June and the weather was better but changeable, the scenery was fantastic.

In April there was an exhibition of small works, no more than 40cm square so I joined the group, Gaspart 17, and exhibited some of my journal quilts and Fifteen by Fifteen pieces. It ran for four and a half days and I wasn’t required to be there all the time, this meant that I had the time to visit Pour Fil d’Amour at Nantes for a day and catch up with friends who were also there. The exhibition in La Rochelle was a good networking exercise but there were not many people who visited and very few understood the concept of textile art, I will repeat the exercise however because it is a good, if limited, window.

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May saw me spending two days in a lino cutting class down the road in Rochefort, it was designed for graphic artists but was brilliant, it really motivated to do more. I worked on a piece, which is yet to be finished, but it is to produce a work which will be exhibited in September with Gaspart.

I have managed to keep up with Fifteen by Fifteen and my Journal Quilts. For the former I am trying to link the six of this year to the coastline and this region, as for the journal quilts, the first four of the year had to use a sewing technique and were based on inspiration from my Indian travels, the next four have to be made using something other than cotton and are based on photos I took in Israel.

Decay : winter on the coast

Coast line in winter

Horizons: I must go down to the seas again

Horizons: I must go down to the seas again ( John Masefield) the view across the bay with the weather vane from the Gros Horloge, La Rochelle.

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This year is disappearing very fast and I really have not been very productive, I miss having unlimited internet access so that I can listen to BBC all day, having somebody talking to me really motivates me to work, without it I am easily distracted. I still have a, now very overdue, wedding quilt to finish and am working on the next Fifteen by Fifteen and Journal quilts while have just finished a sample quilt for my teaching at the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham in August. This year I am only doing two days because I have been invited to go and teach at the Suzdal Quilt Show in Russia. I was invited at Quilt en Beaujolais (before it became BIAT) some years ago but due to various commitments and the dates of the FOQ this year was the first year that I have been free. It is a great opportunity, and I am looking forward to it. It feels, at last, as if it is really happening now that I have got my visa and my teaching materials are packed and ready to go! I am also taking all Fifteen by Fifteen’s first three months of the year quilts with me to be exhibited.

Last week quite by chance I visited a new place down on the coast, a cabin which belongs to the village, Serge who is running it has chosen some local artists to exhibit their work on the theme of the surroundings and I found myself hanging eight of my pieces of different sizes which is really great. I am also hoping to run some small classes there when I get myself organised.

In September I will be at the EPM in Ste Marie-aux-Mines and again will be teaching a class there. Apart from that I am trying to build a new body of work for next year. My next piece is in the pipeline and is for a Gaspart exhibition in September, the subject is animals and I drew the short straw for an animal starting with an ‘N’, it has been a challenge but …… more in the next update.

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.