July 2021

Looking back I really can’t see what I have been doing over the last couple of months but it feels as if I have been busy!

I am finally able to announce that I am exhibiting at EPM, Ste Marie-aux-Mines, in Alsace in September in an exhibition with my good friend Chantal Guillermet. The work for this has kept me busy these last couple of years and won’t be posted here until once the exhibition is underway or finished.

This week I have a ten day exhibition at Ste Marie de Rè, the subject is related to nature in general and the local landscape which is giving me the chance to exhibit older work as well as newer pieces which haven’t been shown since I came here. The following week I have space in two other local art exhibitions, one in Marans and the other in La Rochelle these will both feature newer pieces.

My last piece for Fifteen by Fifteen involved a great deal of stitching because it was all stitched by hand. It is my third piece about the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, the subject was ‘in the style of an artist’. As far as I could find the region is not full of artists but I found the work of Afshan Shoaib who was born in Peshawar and studied in Pakistan before going to London. The full story is on Fifteen by Fifteen but I really liked the way that she worked with two faces in one. Having visited the Kalash valleys in the 1990s I was struck by the differences between the lives of the women there and those in the town of Chitral, the former were very much in evidence while the latter were at home in their compounds and not seen on the streets. I used a photograph I took in the Kalash valleys and half the face is stitched accordingly the other half is swathed in a dupatta, as I was when I visited the region.

Fortunately I always pick up cowrie shells when I see them so I was able to add them to the piece which makes it more authentic.

The season has started at the Cabane on the coast, The Bistrot du Port, Marsilly and I have some small pieces on exhibition.

I sold my curlew piece and then made a new one and I have recently stitched a shelduck and there is a black redstart in the pipeline.

The other piece which was completed was a small piece for the SAQA benefit auction, it started out as an exercise in colour using a colour I wouldn’t usually work with and then I developed it further.

I continue to walk and photograph what I see and will soon start a new collection of work, watch this space…

April 2021

It is only after the second reveal for the year with Fifteen by Fifteen that I realise how long it has been since I last posted. Time during the ‘COVID’ period is endless and one day blurs into another, with no routine life drifts along . I think a lot about friends but lack the motivation to contact them, when I am in my bubble I am quite happy and outside contact can make me yearn for other things. Although we are only just going back into lockdown we have had a curfew since before the end of 2020, it was reduced from 6pm to 7pm a couple of weeks ago. 

On the stitching front as per usual there are things I have worked on which are tucked away for exhibitions and a wedding quilt on the go which I am keeping under wraps until it is gifted and that will depend on travel restrictions this summer. All I can say is that I know exactly what I am doing in front of the television of an evening for next month or so.

This year Fifteen by Fifteen are working in a series based on a country of our own choice, each reveal has a subject in common, the first was emblems and the second landscapes. Back in the 90s I holidayed in the north of Pakistan and it is a country which intrigues me, the scenery in the Hindu Kush and Karakoram regions is spectacular and my mother was born in Karachi pre partition. I deiced to to mix two flags, the national and regional flag of the formerly North-West Frontier are, now the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. The colours used are the same in both flags, I machine stitched with three different weights of green thread before adding the painted areas.

The landscape was much harder the mountains rise so high above the river valleys and I wanted to try and concentrate on the KP region. For some reason years back I bought a very detailed map which was just beyond the region but it included the ‘road’ that I had twice travelled so I took a small section and enlarged it, contour lines and their spacing are a really good measure of the steepness of a region, I added some spot heights, the buildings marked on the map and the tracks/paths. The road, which crosses the north, is more of a track as it is a dirt road, then there are many water courses some of which dry up in the summer months. The map is old but I really don’t think that much will have changed in these high frontier lands.

This year I have decided not to do journal quilts, I was finishing my on-line course with Sue Stone and doing varying challenges with the Textileartist.org’s stitch club and I want to have time to explore different ideas without feeling that I had to complete too many things on time.

A small piece as a result of a workshop with Stewart Kelly. I love collecting samples to give me inspiration and ideas for further development.

For the last unit of my Stitch my Story course I had to choose a person I know and do three portraits from the same photograph. I wanted to work on my mother and had difficulty finding a photograph, the first one was relatively easy but the next two were harder as we had to change the look and I was hopeless at it, had I known what the 3rd subject was when I did the second one I would have changed the order. I discovered that finding words to describe her character was really difficult because she was distant during my childhood and latterly suffered from dementia, my choice for the second one was then to try and age her and in her thoughts were her grandfather who she cried out for all the time.

First attempt…
Second attempt with my great grand-father taken from a grainy newspaper cutting…

The last one was in the colours of a jumper she had which I adored, her glasses were made more bookish, she loved reading and the cross stitches used reflect the fine counted thread embroidery she so loved to do. Her jumper reflects nature, she loved the garden and outdoors in general.

I am really pleased to have done the course and now have many ideas of where to go from here…

Next week was meant to be having an exhibition of my own for two weeks but, as is the way of things at present, it has been cancelled. Hopefully it will happen this autumn or next spring. This, however, has encouraged me to make some smaller pieces and mount them on frames as the subject for the exhibition is nature and the patrimony of the Ile de Rè. I intend to go on with the series in the weeks to come but here are the first three. 

I also made a small piece for the SAQA Spotlight Auction.

During March SAQA had a seminar on Colour with weekly lectures, chat sessions and loads of resources, I managed to attend most of it even if I didn’t do all the exercises. I knew some of it and some was too scientific for me but it was great to have something to focus on. With virtually nothing in the diary for the next few months I hope to have the time to be really creative!

December 2020

So, here we are at the end of the year, mid December to be precise, and I honestly don’t know where the time has gone, or more importantly what I have done with my time. I haven’t the excuse of being elsewhere, since the end of October we have been under lock-down…. I have been very focussed about walking daily and at the same time looking for photo opportunities, after a month of walking the same 5 km circuit daily I think I knew every blade of grass! With the restriction of a 1 km radius it did encourage me to be more observant and really look around me, hopefully some of the photos will be put to good use.

I have continued with my on-line course with Sue Stone and produced a couple more portraits adding appliqué and mixed media and just have the last section to do, all that I need is the right photo! I have found it a wonderful course and hopefully I will use what I have learnt and take it further. 

A nepalese lady high in the mountains. This took ages and due to the amount of stitching and I don’t think I will work in this way very often, but it was a good challenge!
A cook in a taliban restaurant in the north west of Pakistan where I ate one evening many years ago. appliqué and hand stitch.His mouth was difficult because he had no teeth!
A mixed media piece depicting a young woman carrying a basket of hay high up in Nepal.

On the subject of courses I have also continued to do some of the Textileartist.org workshops which have pushed me to try techniques I might not otherwise have tried, again there are techniques which I intend to return to.

A sketchbook made after Ali Ferguson’s workshop.
A glove made of plastic as a result of Jennifer Collier’s workshop. Rather more enjoyable than I had expected!
This and the following photograph are inspired by Richard McVetis’ workshop encouraging abstract work, neither piece are really abstract but I had great fun doing them…all hand stitched.

With the uncertainty of how the world will pan out next year I still have pieces stored away for exhibitions and I would like to add to them, I have the feeling that my productivity has really dropped and I must try and get focussed. I have finished my year of journal quilts, (subject Out and About using used materials) many of which used techniques from workshops. I think that next year I might take a break from monthly journal quilts, I will see how I feel in January., although they do give one the chance to try out ideas in small pieces before making a something larger.

Samphire on the coastline with the shelducks swimming.
Painted shell appliquéd on to an old handkerchief which was also painted.
The sand as the tide goes out, base fabric with a metallic thread painted and then an old paper bag appliquéd.
A partridge without his seasonal pear tree, but he was eating things in my garden one morning so I photographed him from the kitchen window. Hand stitched then painted on an old pillow case.

I have completed the monthly SAQA regional challenges here below:

The subject was the garden, I played around with the photo programme on my ipad to produce this pattern of some ornamental grass in the garden.
Colour; one of my projects is to look at colours , inspired by the work of Albert Aymes.
Cities: inspired by floor tiles at the basilica of St Servatius, Maastricht.
Mono-colour: my interpretation of a rock sculpture by Valentina Dusavitskaya and Yury Tkachenko at Les Lapidiales, Crazannes. I felt that their idea of man/women, yin/yang or night/day reflected the state of my emotions over the last month, sticking my head in the sand included…

The year has also ended for the Fifteen by Fifteen pieces and my series is complete. we were working on a different letter each challenge and I decided to use places I have visited as my subjects, with the inclusion of the letter in morse code.

M for Murano, a Venetian island which is renowned for its glass production, the millefiori marrina in particular. I have replaced the water and some parts of the buildings with fabric which represents the glass.
A: Akko (Acre, Israel). I sun printed the letters then stitched the stones. There are motifs from the city flag representing the city as a port and more recent industry, a motif of an old bread press I saw in the museum , the colour is an entry ticket which I printed on ExtravOrganza. The whole then had some roof vaults from the Knights Halls.

Looking back over 2020 it has been a strange time for us all, it started for me with a flurry of activity and a heavy work load trying to complete things for exhibitions which gradually fell by the wayside, the result is a feeling of emptiness. On the whole I am happy in my bubble and I have not lacked time for reflection, the result is that I think in my head I am getting a clearer picture of the direction I want my work to go in…

Seasons greetings to those of you who have read to the end!

Tempus fugit…

How time flies and I don’t seem to have achieved anything although I reckon that I have been constantly occupied. Not having a structure to my life means that I have floated through the summer never really knowing what day it is or what I am going to do with it! With an empty diary I started filling it with noting when there were zoom meetings or on-line Stitch Club activities. In some ways this ‘time out’ has given me a freedom to experiment with ideas and things I would never normally do stitch-wise. I have to admit that there are various household chores which also come in to that category…. 

As somebody who likes things well organised I found a workshop with Gregory Todd Wilkins a real challenge, the idea of applying paint randomly, with no plan, difficult and my efforts were timid but I did it and turned the piece in to a 12” by 12” piece ‘Home is where the heart is’ or in my case the emotions which have been contained there in within the previous six months. I used colour to express how I have felt home alone. Grey: depression, Blue: calmness with a touch of sadness, Yellow : happiness, Orange : creativity and energy, Pink : cheeriness. Fabric paint with hand stitching and a wood block print for ‘home’. The quantity of each colour reflected the balance of my emotions.

Out and about: a wander along the coastal path. This was my July journal quilt using found objects and plastics in particular. Hand painted old sheeting and couched plastic string for the plants with beads as the seed heads.

Out and About: along the coast during one of my usual walks. The sea and the bush are made with old paper bags using Momigami (thanks Cas Holmes and the Textileartist), I have also used commercial scraps and the sky is hand painted silk. I tore the ‘sea’ paper in to strips and then painted it before layering it with some grey nylon. All hand stitched, the fishing hut should, in retrospect, have been in deeper water/mud ….

My inspiration continues to come from what I see around me and maybe the fact that I haven’t been far afield has led me to look at things in more detail and search patterns and textures where they are not obvious at first glance, the lichen on this signpost is a good example. I have yet to use it as a basis for a stitched piece but watch this space…

July’s Fifteen by Fifteen piece was the letter ‘D’ and I choose to work a stained glass window in the church of Dampierre-sur-Boutonne .
When I first saw the modern stained glass windows I was inspired to use them in textiles because I found the shapes so pleasing and there was no lead separating the coloured panes. The only separation is the line of stonework between the two sections of window. The pulpit was carved stone and again I was drawn to the designs. I first painted the silk ‘window’ and then stitched in the ditch to hold the layers together. I overlaid the pulpit design and machined the motifs with a rayon thread, the finer details are not too true to life but the creating of the shapes was fun. The idea was to create something that looked very basic but which  then produced a second more complicated shape upon closer inspection. I have used the centre of the flowers to insert my ‘D’ in morse code. This piece demonstrated how difficult photographing textiles can be.

A second workshop with Anne Kelly resulted in this small booklet recording a visit to Israel in 2017. A good many of the workshops have encouraged us to use found materials which is great except that recently I decided to declutter, moving house and living in a modern space really made me aware of how much clutter I had accumulated throughout the years. Sadly many small pieces of small memorabilia have been chucked away….

I am still, slowly, working through an on-line course with Sue Stone and am determined to get to then of it. I love stitching portraits and have done two recently, the first as a gift and the second for my coursework.

Aware that I have far too much surplus fabric I decided to cover two cushions which have been lying around for months, the first is from left overs from a quilt I made some years back, that was so much fun that I did another with further scraps in a brighter colour range. There is something very relaxing about piecing and hand quilting…

Nearing the end of September I realise how much time has slipped through my fingers, my walking group has restarted with twice weekly sessions which has given me some structure to the week so all I have to do is attack some new work on my empty and recently tidied work table….

Holiday time….

Well in theory holiday time is here, in fact not a lot has changed I am still happily at home with no real desire to go anywhere. I have been tempted to venture further afield but I prefer solitude at home rather than wearing a face mask amongst strangers. I have been busily stitching since I last updated this blog but as virtually all my targets have now melted and disappeared, for the time being, I find myself beginning to relax. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be continuing to stitch frantically, it just means that there is no pressure to do so. I am doing an on-line course with Sue Stone which I began at the beginning of the year knowing that I wouldn’t really be able to commit much time until the autumn. Then, at the the beginning of lock-down the textileartist.org produced weekly challenges with other textile artists , it was really great to have workshop followed by a Q&A session each week, I didn’t do them all but I did listen to them all. The they started the Stitch Club and I am just beginning to catch up on that. There is no pressure to complete each week but I love listening to what inspires artists and see how others interpret the project. I intend to spend more time trialing ideas and ‘playing’.

Much of what I have been working on has to remain under wraps until it has been exhibited publicly but there are a few other projects I can share.

There have been various panics about not having what I most needed in the sewing line, in my confused state I had completely over looked the fact that I could dye my own threads because recently I have done far more painting than dyeing. When I dye fabric I also tend to through thread in at the same time that way my thread and fabric match.

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I have continued to photograph things as I walk, I am beginning to have a large library of flowers, my phone is very good on close ups less good on landscapes but I glean inspiration nonetheless.

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There has been another piece for Fifteen by Fifteen which was the letter ‘C’. I chose the Cinque Terra and Corniglia in particular. As I have probably said more than once I like the idea of layers so I used a slightly rusty old iron balcony in the foreground, cut in black interlining and de-coloured, with the village painted in in the background, well the form of it and the colours which were then machine stitched. I then hand-stitched the balcony in to place. it is bound in white because this year all my six pieces finished in this way to make them look like snap shots…

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There are beads across the middle depicting the C in morse code.

During May I also gave a live Facebook workshop on the Spanish I maraton Covid 19 page. It was slightly harrowing when I couldn’t get the camera to work live on the trial session but after 5 hours of reading Macs: for Dummies, amongst other things, I finally sorted it out for the class. It appears to have been appreciated, despite the fact that I don’t speak a word of Spanish, judging by the number of positive comments I received. In return I was given a virtual medal…

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Journal quilts continue and I am trying to use all that I am learning in the workshops to produce them. This one was as a result of a workshop led by Anne Kelly, her style of work and mine are poles apart but I was intrigued to give her method of working a try. I recycled an old linen napkin and cut it to size to keep the finished edge intact. The whole thing is machine stitched which holds everything in place and it is really interesting to see how the tight stitch really changes the density of colour.

Caroline Higgs - May -2020

Other workshops have been exercises in the different ways of using basic stitches which I have enjoyed. Focussing on one type of stitch and using it differetn ways really makes me stop and think and there are so many possibilities.

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While sorting through my lace bits and bobs I found a collar and cuff set from Malta, I don’t know which grandmother bought them by I now need to find a special use for them.

maltese lace

 

The last workshop I did was with Mandy Pattullo, again her way of working and mine are very different, I watched thinking that I wouldn’t take the project any further because I consider myself a maker of books but I got hooked and produced a small concertina book on India. I had an idea in head but as I looked at my fabric scraps it morphed in to something quite different. India is a land of contrasts so the book tells that story, the base is a rough hand loomed cotton while most of the fabric is silk, the stitching which is hard to see in the photographs is either in contrast or matching the fabrics at same time creating texture. The scraps of fabric I chose all represent different facets of India, architecture, gardens, colour and bling. The story begins and ends with cotton, the elephant from a block printing demo and the end a pice from a shalmar kameez set I had made for me many years ago. The covers are lino and wood block prints… There is in my mind also the contrast between the tatty and chic….P1010460P1010466P1010468P1010470P1010472

 

Finally I once again have work on display at the Cabane de la Mairie just down the road from home right on the coastal path.P1010407

I had an idea of teaching small classes there but without the contact with people it has fallen by the wayside for the time being. It is strange how while I am busy at home I forget that things are different beyond the garden. I am so grateful that that the art textile community is there and so much has been going on through social media, it is such fun connecting with people world-wide…. Onwards and upwards!

 

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.