Friday, 26 March 2010

cards continued

The crocuses in Lister Park (on the way into Bradford from here) have been absolutely glorious this week but now, sadly, are just about past their best. The ones in my garden are definitely over now (I took this photo a week or so ago). There is something so cheery about their flamboyant mix of colours. The great swathe that is planted along the edge of the park (the best view of which is from the slightly elevated position of the bus) are a tasteful mix of shades of purple and white with that really bright yellow thrown in to shake it all up. This vibrant mix of complementary colour that so often can occur within one flower or plant is partly what has informed the colour ways of the cards I've been finishing off this week. They've also taken inspiration from that mix of brights that you might find in the button box.

And some of them have used buttons directly, both as a means of printing and actually sewn onto the card.

Each little square, once printed, has been sewn into before being stuck onto the card and finished ready to be sold.

In my last post I described the printing I'd done for my new cards based on weave samples. This week I've taken those little printed squares and added translucent tissue paper and lines of stitch...

... and I've done four different colour ways.

Each stage of making involves a little production line. There is something quite satisfying about this - small repetitive jobs done in sequence and done well. Perhaps this is why weaving appeals to me. Once the cards have been signed, stamped on the back...

... and put in their little (biodegradable) plastic wrappers they can be stacked neatly in a box ready for delivery.

Today I dropped off my completed card order at Salts Mill, just down the road in Saltaire, where they'll go on sale in the 1853 Gallery in amongst the lovely books and art materials, all overlooked by the world famous Hockney pictures. Earlier in the week I delivered different cards to ArtParade, which is just over the road from Salts Mill. This is a little independent photography and craft gallery that sells work by local artists and makers, as well as ones from further afield. These cards weren't new designs - the old favourite hearts seem to sell consistently there through the year (they're obviously a romantic lot in Saltaire!).

Card making listening: Ballad of the broken seas, by Isobell Campbell & Mark Lanegan; Fly yellow moon, by Fyfe Dangerfield; Songs from the labyrinth, by Sting.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Making cards while the sun shines

I'm making cards this week. I have orders to complete for Salts Mill and ArtParade, both in Saltaire. I spent most of yesterday in my studio completing the first stage of these orders which involves cutting sections of thick watercolour paper to size and then painting onto them.

These bases will then have other layers of paper stitched on... more on that another time.

I worked for most of the day with the doors open to the garden, which was wonderful. Stepping outside it felt warm in the sun and I even ate my lunch outside. By the time the rain came mid afternoon my washing had dried too!

This range of cards is very much informed by weave, and in particular the samples, above, that I wove recently on my loom, and which were all about playing with colour. They were also part of me getting to grips with weaving on this loom. I've done various weave projects at college but hadn't done any of those for over a year and had only put on one warp myself (with a lot of help). I've had my Granny's loom here since last June but it's been sitting, waiting and, quite frankly, I was scared of it! In January I had a much needed day with Laura Rosenzweig up in Cumbria. This was a kind of revision day and she went over the basics of warping up, also showing me how to warp up front to back, rather than the other way round, which was how I'd been shown at college. This really did the trick for me and I came home and made a warp that evening. Since then I've made three more warps which are all narrow (about 4 inches wide) so that I can practice putting them on the loom and start to play around with colour and texture.

These particular samples have a multi coloured warp and by varying the colours, weight and textural qualities of yarn in the weft I was able to play about with various effects, all just using plain weave. Its also a challenge for me to try and keep my sides straight! Below, I've shown some sketch book work that was influenced by these weave experiments that has resulted in the cards I'm making now.

In designing a range of cards like this there are always the constraints of:

  • needing to be able to reproduce the design a number of times, often in different colour ways;
  • needing to make each card relatively quickly - you can only charge so much for a card so to make it worth it you have to keep things simple (the gallery or shop selling the card on will charge at least twice what the maker is getting for it);
  • coming up with new designs that are interesting and haven't been done before!
Soon I'm off to Manchester for a rehearsal at the BBC for tomorrow's concert. I've sung with the Leeds Festival Chorus for 10 years and tomorrow we're singing the strange and beautiful Symphony of Psalms by Stravinsky as well as Sécheresses and Litanies à la Vierge Noire by Poulenc, in Leeds Town Hall. Its all with the BBC Philharmonic (hence the Manchester rehearsal tonight) and will be quite a spectacular concert. I am in the semi-chorus for the Litanies, which means only a few of us singing some sections. With a BBC microphone shoved in your face this is quite a scary prospect!

Current listening: Here's the tender coming by The Unthanks

Saturday, 13 March 2010

New shoots

The sun is shining and it can't fail to lift my spirits. You don't have to look hard to see that there are signs of new life popping up all over the place. Despite the fact that it is such a cliché, seeing these shoots of life pushing up through the detritus of winter can only fill one with hope.

I spent a quiet half hour wandering round my parent's garden at the weekend with a camera and a sketchbook, finding all these wonderful little details in the bright sunshine. The exquisite combination of dusky purple, maroon and grey-green on these new honeysuckle shoots had me busy for a while...

... although the light was so good for photographs (either side of an inconsiderate grey cloud) that the sketchbook didn't get much of a look in this time.

The twigs that hold these pear buds are encrusted with tiny blobs of the brightest yellow and bleached grey lichens...

The bright weather seemed to bring all sorts of things to life, including loads of ladybirds that had overwintered in various nooks and crannies. We found them hanging about all over the place in little groups, still huddled together but obviously enjoying the sunshine.

I spent an hour in my own garden this afternoon clearing dead stems and leaves onto the compost heap, revealing bare ground but also a whole gamut of different shoots and buds, all fat and practically bursting with promise.

Current Listening: Arvo Part: Seven Magnificat Antiphons for Choir

Friday, 12 March 2010

Hello world

For quite a long time I've been pondering the world of the 'blog'. I don't spend hours pouring over other people's blogs, constantly finding links to new ones, in the way that I know some people do. Quite frankly I don't have the time! It puzzles me why anyone would want to follow whatever detail of my life that I choose to share with the on-line world. Perhaps no-one will and that will be the end of it. But I've come to realise that there are people out there who might be interested in what I do and that by sharing something of it I might also learn something. As part of my practice as an artist I realise the importance of recording experiences and thoughts. By formalising some of this in a way that is available to other people I might find that it clarifies my own thought processes. In doing this I am also making a way for others to give feedback, comment, criticise (hopefully constructively!) on my work. This means connecting with other people with similar interests.

So here goes...

At the beginning of the year I set up a 'proper' studio in one of our cellar rooms. By this I mean that I now have a room that is a designated space for my work. It was originally the kitchen for this Edwardian semi (the beautiful range from that period is still here), then for a long time was a dirty cellar store room. When we first moved in it became a sort of utility room until we decided to open up the window space to put in french doors and make it into a more usable family space. It became known as 'the garden room'. Although this room is in the basement the level of the garden is only a couple of feet higher than the floor level so when you are in this room you look straight out through the plants and feel very much on the same level as the garden. It feels embedded on the same plane.

So now I have a space where I can do messy stuff, leave things out without worrying about small children fiddling (the door is closed when I'm not in there), and I can go in there and pick up where I left off previously at any time that suits me and for any length of time - 10 minutes snatched at my loom is possible because I can walk in, weave and then walk out. So, if you'd like to step into my 'garden studio' I'll show you around. . .

A glimpse of the garden through the doors - when I'm working in here I am constantly aware of the garden outside, the way the light is changing, how the colours are behaving in today's weather. If I can't be out there I can at least work along side it and it is in my consciousness, informing what I'm doing on some level.

This was my Granny's loom. She used it mainly for weaving rugs, some of which I have on the wall, and for which she had spun the wool herself from fleeces that she chose for their natural variety of colours.

I'm still getting used to working in here and how best to use the space but for now I have the basics: a table for working at; a large notice board for bits and pieces of inspiration and for putting up samples and stepping back from them, living with them for a while; some basic storage for yarns and art materials. Most of my sewing stuff is still up in the attic where I used to work and where I still do paper work. The only trouble with this is that if I need something from the other room I have to go up three flights of stairs but at least it keeps me fit!