Prism in Birmingham

Well, OK, I should have written something about Prism’s ‘Another View’  in Birmingham before now. And especially as it’s now weeks since the exhibition closed. I did my day of stewarding in the first week of the exhibition, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d had my dental implants done nine days earlier and, in retrospect, it would have been sensible to rest up for longer before I put in a full day at the exhibition. As it turned out the day I took my turn at stewarding was the first day I could have possibly managed to be on my feet for that length of time. We travelled up from Newton Abbot in Devon, where we stayed for several weeks in April and May, up to Birmingham the night before. I do like Birmingham, although I’m not well-acquainted with it. There is much of interest there, especially for anyone who is keen on the Industrial Revolution, gritty industrial architecture and shopping. Oh, and if you’re an aficionado of large, noisy roads that slice through a city centre making it difficult for pedestrians to get about, you’ll love the place. (I think the city was not well-served by developments in the 1960s).

The exhibition was at the RBSA (Royal Birmingham Society of Artists) which is a gem of a place in the Jewellery quarter just out of the city centre. RBSA gallery BirminghamThe building contains three floors, and the two upper floors were given over to the Prism exhibition. There was some excellent work in this year’s show, and it was very well exhibited in this beautiful space. I spent most of my time on the top floor as I was looking after the small shop. There was a steady stream of visitors during the morning, many of whom were regular visitors to RBSA, and who were not necessarily well-informed about textile art or Prism. The reaction to the exhibition was very positive and supportive indeed, and I enjoyed talking to the visitors.

A good thing about stewarding, as I discovered last year, is that, as well as talking to visitors, you also get to meet other Prism members. On this occasion I was stewarding with Ross Belton (see some of his images on Pinterest here) and Paulene Cattle, and I had an absorbing and interesting talk with both of them about all sorts of things.

So, in sum, a grand day out, even if I did feel utterly wiped out by it. With a bit of luck and good management I’ll have completed all the implant-related treatment by October, so should be in rather better shape for the Hoxton exhibition. Let’s hope….


Well…! That was a long break from blogging. I do have some quite good reasons, though. We’re in the process of moving from Lancashire to Northumberland. It’s been, and continues to be, a frenetic process. The house sold in early March and we packed up and left, putting most of the stuff into storage. We will be moving into the new place within the next two or three months, but don’t yet have a date. In the meantime, we’ve been travelling around with a car containing the bare essentials for five or six months.

The nomadic sewing kit contains:

  • My sewing machine (couldn’t bear to be parted from my Bernina for that long)
  • Two large bags of art and stitching materials, full to bursting and spilling out

This lot occupies quite a lot of volume in the car (which is a pretty normal hatchback size). We’ve each got a couple of bags of clothes and personal items, and there are two large boxes of paperwork, both domestic and work-based (because I have to carry on working throughout this period). Computer equipment and lots of trailing leads. Then there are a few domestic items that were last minute (e.g. teapot and coffee pot, a sad little teaspoon on its ownio) and odds and ends that just somehow got left behind. A solitary plant which we couldn’t just abandon. Shoes. Sandals. Coats and jackets to cover the different seasons.

It’s been quite an upheaval, to put it mildly. I suppose it’s good for a person, to have everything thrown up in the air, and to still be waiting to see where the pieces fall a few months later. But, to be honest, I’ve found it much more difficult than I expected – and I wasn’t expecting it to be easy.

And just to make life that little bit more difficult, in the course of all this I’ve had my latest round of dental implants done. Most of the time since we moved we’ve been in either France or Scotland, but I had to go back to England for a couple of things, once of which was the dental implant op towards the end of April. And it’s taken me till now, early June, to feel more or less back to normal. We’re back in France, although I’ll be off to England again in a fortnight for work. And then after that it’s Spain for a few days….. I know this must sound really interesting and possibly even enviable, but really, I just want to move into the new place, sit down on the sofa and cuddle the cat (who is in long-term care at the cattery – I miss her lots) and not move for rather a long time. I rather enjoyed gadding about when I was young, but that was then and this is now.

So, I’ve got started with blogging again, I’ll have to have a bit of a retrospective catch-up over the next few entries. I have continued, somewhat surprisingly, to get some stitching done. I’ve had work exhibited at Ramster. I’ve been on another Matthew Harris course. I spent a day stewarding at the Prism exhibition in Birmingham. And although I haven’t kept up with social media to the extent of doing any blogging, I have been quite assiduous about keeping up with Instagram. I’ll write a bit more about all these things over the next couple of weeks.

One thought I’ll leave you with for now is about stuff. This move had been planned for some time but the transaction was getting so dauntingly difficult (this is in England where property transactions are more often than not a nightmare) that it looked as though it wasn’t going to happen. Once it did happen, it happened incredibly quickly and we had less than a week in which to organise a last-minute leaving party for friends and neighbours and get everything packed up to go into storage. Apart from the items I mentioned earlier, it’s all gone. Nearly three decades-worth of stuff. And what, if anything do I miss? Most of all I miss the cat, way out in front of anything else. Next, I miss certain items of art that we have bought over the years, although I have to say there are some items I’m quite indifferent about. I’d like to get back to having a really big table for artwork and stitching. And, er, well, that’s about it. It’s going to be interesting to unpack all this stuff, and to properly appraise whether or not we want to keep it.

More linen on paper

Frankly, I don’t have a lot to show for the last few weeks. Since I last posted here I have both moved house and had an impossible quantity of work to do. This is a uniquely toxic combination in my experience. I couldn’t recommend it and will do my best to avoid it in future.

However, I did get another little sample done using linen thread on paper, and here it is:

Linen on paper

This uses the only bright colour (and it isn’t all that bright) in my linen thread collection. Either I buy more linen thread, or I mix in some cottons, and I’m inclined to go for the latter, as I like mixing materials.

The stitch here is wrapped chain stitch, which produces a nice effect, but takes ages. (Pleasing effects often do take ages, I’ve observed with some chagrin). What I like about the embroidery in paper is that it seems to sit on the surface, producing a distinctive texture.

So, will I do more? Answer: yes, probably. However, I think it might be a good idea if I spent a bit of time on more focused efforts to design, so I think I shall get cracking on some sketchbook work.

In the meantime, my need to be stitching something is satisfied by the production of more little pincushions. Pictures will probably follow.

By the by, my cochineal series did get exhibited at Ramster’s. Dee Thomas, another Prism member, was stewarding and kindly sent me a photo. They looked good, set out in a horizontal line, at what looked to be eye level.

Prism 2017

Yes, it’s been a while, hasn’t it….. I’ve been both busy and not very well for the last few weeks, a killer combination as far as writing blog posts is concerned. More to come in due course about what I’ve been up to. For the moment, just a brief post to say that I’ve had some work accepted for the 2017 Prism exhibitions in Birmingham (from end of April 2017) and London (from mid October 2017). I’ve had the work ready for a while, but hadn’t yet framed it, so I’ve been busy the last couple of days getting the work framed and ready to send. I’m very pleased about these opportunities, and feeling a little more on top of it this year because I know more about what is involved.

I won’t show any images of the Prism work, but I can say that it is fairly sombre in respect of colour palette. All the more important, then, to keep going with some more colourful bits and pieces in odd moments. I’ve been continuing work on the pincushions of which I have quite a collection now. They’re great to do, original in the sense that each one is unique, but easy to pick up in an odd moment here and there.

Prism exhibition

The Prism exhibition ended a couple of weeks ago, but they’ve been weeks packed out with work for me, so I’ve not written any posts of late. Regular readers may have noticed this – sorry! I had a grand day out at the Prism exhibition on the 8th June, but boy, was I exhausted by the end of it. I went down to London on the 7th and stayed overnight, then travelled back up north on the evening of the 8th. The weather was poor and there were storms with flash floods in London on both the 7th and 8th. However, despite the weather there were plenty of enthusiastic visitors to the exhibition on the 8th, and they seemed to be having a good time. There was a lot to see and absorb, but also I spent quite a lot of time chatting both with the visitors and with the other Prism members who were stewarding that day. As I barely know anyone from the group it was a great opportunity for me to make some contacts.

It was a lovely ego boost for me to see my three pieces in the exhibition. It’s a pity that none of them sold, but on the other hand I did sell some of the smaller pieces and cards. Just at the moment, I don’t actually know which ones sold because my daughter collected the unsold work at the end of the exhibition. It’s as well for me that she was willing and able to do this, because otherwise I’d have had to make another expensive trip to London. So, the unsold work is currently at her house, and I won’t see it until I go down in August. Once I’ve got the work back I’ll be able to think about alternative outlets for it. I’m quite inclined to set up on Etsy but I’ll have to ponder further on this. It’s all time and effort… and I continue to be short of time. Work does get in the way.

Smaller pieces for sale

I wrote three posts not too long ago about making smaller pieces for sale. Before I went on my mammoth cycling trip I mounted six of them on large pieces of mountboard, enclosed a label, then wrapped the finished pieces in heavy duty florists’ cellophane. This entailed the purchase of new supplies:

  • Mountboard, obviously, but also some thinner card to tape onto the back of the pieces so that the underside of the embroidery is concealed
  • Double sided sticky tape, heavy duty so that the pieces won’t fall to bits
  • Cellophane

I did quite a bit of research on sourcing materials of the right quality. All these new supplies were quite costly, but I don’t want the presentation of these pieces to look cheap. Fortunately, I already had a mount cutter (which is what gives you the nice bevelled edge); I bought it several years ago on a whim, never knowing how useful it would turn out to be. Accurate measurement is, obviously, really important. I work with a centimetre ruler (not inches, even though when I was at school we still used imperial measurement only and it took me many years to come round to metric measurement) and I measure everything at least twice before I cut. Even with a fair bit of care, I did make the odd mistake, but I found that, as with all repetitive tasks, I got better at it the more I did.

After the cycling trip, I mounted four smaller pieces on some of the smaller offcuts of mountboard that I had left over. I’ve got plenty of mountboard left over for the next time I do this exercise. Here is one of the smaller pieces. all wrapped up: Smaller piece for sale

You’ll see that it really is quite small, but what I was aiming for was a range of items at different prices, so as to appeal (I hope) to as broad a group as possible. In total I have mounted 10 pieces and the price range is from £10 for the smallest pieces, up to a maximum of £40. These prices in no way reflect the massive amount of work involved – but see my earlier post on that topic…

I’m hoping that these will be sufficiently appealing to sell. Although, actually, I’m rather fond of some of them, so if they come winging their way back to me I might put one or two on my own walls.

Making cards

This week I’ve been busy making cards for the Prism exhibition at Hoxton. Just to remind you – this exhibition opens on blocks_image_1_11st June. Please see the reminder flyer. Because of being away on my cycle trip (which I wrote about in an earlier post) I didn’t really have time to sort out the printing of greetings cards, so I decided to make my own, using a small piece of embroidery in the same general series as the ‘Cochineal Dream’ pieces that are going on show. These were the tiny bits of embroidery that I was doing in odd moments when I wasn’t cycling or doing something cycling related (like washing knickers and socks in washbasins in French hotels, drinking beer, booking a room in a suitable place for the next day etc). So this week, with the exhibition coming up so rapidly, I had to concentrate on getting ready. I’ve already written about preparing small pieces for sale, but these pieces for the cards are even smaller.

I bought greetings card blanks from Hobbycraft (which is probably known to most of my readers in the UK – not sure what the equivalent is elsewhere), and cellophane sleeves to put the cards in, from the same shop. All the little pieces are slightly different in size, so I had to measure each, cut out a little window in the card, stick the piece down using double sided tape, then cover up the messy back with another piece of card. Then I wrote my website address on the back of the card in pencil, then put them into the cellophane sleeves. Finally, I printed some sticky labels to go on the outside of the cellophane wrapper, showing my name, website address again, with a space for the price. I’m going to write about pricing in a separate post as I have a number of thoughts on the subject that I’d quite like to share with you.

Altogether I made 18 cards, and the photograph shows a selection of them, wrapped and ready to go.Selection of cards I do hope that, if you’re anyway near London in the early part of June, you’ll get to the exhibition. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Exhibitors are asked to go on a rota for stewarding and helping in the shop. I will be there all day on Wednesday 8th June and I would love to meet some readers of this blog if you’re passing. Hoxton isn’t that hard to get to. If you’re not familiar with London, go to the Transport for London website which is brilliant, and which will show you the best way to get there from your starting point elsewhere in London. For me it’s Northern Line to Old Street, then a 55 bus, but you may be able to use the Overground to go to Hoxton station which is right opposite the exhibition.



Another small piece for sale

Last time I posted I explained that I was making some small pieces for sale. Here is another one in this mini-series:Another small piece for sale

I do like to introduce a highlight colour, and I’m finding it interesting that the highlight that often seems most appropriate is red or pink. Most of this little piece (which measures about 8cm X 9 cm) is covered by a piece of sheer black silk organza. At its edge it tends to curl under a bit which has the pleasing effect of creating a line. It looks somewhat like a horizon line, which is why I’ve placed the piece in this orientation.

I’m enjoying making these small pieces very much. I’ve put quite a lot of work into presenting them carefully. I’ve used a mount cutter to cut an appropriately sized aperture into a piece of mountboard, then I’ve used heavy duty double sided tape to position the piece. Then I’ve covered the back of the mountboard with a piece of heavy card, sticking it down with more double sided tape. Finally, I sign the piece then wrap it up in florist’s cellophane. This is all quite a lot of work, but I’m very pleased with the finished pieces. The mountboard sets off the embroidery very well and the cellophane protects the piece from dust and dirt.

Making smaller work for sale

Recently, I’ve been putting in a lot of time on making smaller works for sale. I hope to be able to offer these for the shop at the forthcoming Prism exhibition. I’ve also been thinking about setting up an Etsy shop at some point, although I’m not ready to do this yet. If and when I do it I will, of course, provide a link on this website.

I decided that, as I was on a roll with the Klee-themed pieces, I would produce some mini-versions to offer for sale. So far, I’ve produced six and I’ve loved making them. A couple of posts ago I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed the whitework I was doing in the early part of the year, but also that I was glad to get back to colour. These pieces are the result of my engagement with colour. I’ve thought about the application of colour theory a lot since I started doing them but also I’ve just been enjoying placing colours together to see what works. I thought at one stage that my principal interest would always be line, but of late I find I’m drawn time and time again to the sheer joy of putting colours alongside each other. Here’s an example of what I’ve been working on:Brief Dream series

I hope you can see from this how much I’ve liked working with colour. The red and pink juxtaposition is what I was exploring in the Cochineal Dream pieces, and here I’ve added some more elements to this basic idea, including the bright yellow and ochre. Sometimes these odd combinations seem to work.

More on this another time.








Preparing for the exhibition

I’ve been preparing for the exhibition of Prism work at Hoxton Arches, which I blogged about last time. As you’ll know if you read this blog regularly, I’m what could best be classified as an enthusiastic amateur. However, I’ve come to realise over the last few months that I’m going to have to up my game and approach the business of exhibiting with an appropriate level of professionalism. I’m definitely ready to do this, but I do need some help and guidance. I met up with Julia Triston in February and she gave me some very useful advice about exhibiting: presentation and pricing etc. This is the kind of thing you really don’t seem to be able to find in books. There are loads and loads of books about techniques, and even a few about creativity, but there’s very little that deals with how to exhibit your work. Last week, through a mutual friend, I met Fiona Rainford, also a Prism member, whose work I like very much. She also gave me some excellent advice, especially about making and pricing smaller items for sale.

I do hope to sell my Cochineal Dream pieces, and with that aim in view, I’ve had them professionally framed. I did consider doing this myself by buying ready-made frames, but couldn’t find just what I wanted of the appropriate quality. We have a picture framer locally and I dropped in there one day but didn’t really like any of the frames on offer (too ornate; too naff; too plasticky; too, well, just nasty). I looked up lots of framers on the internet, looking for somewhere reasonably local where I could get some decent advice about the best frame for my work. I rejected all those whose galleries show framed sports memorabilia or artwork that I think is hideous – a bit snotty of me, I suppose. Then I remembered Kendal, where we once had an expensive (for us) oil-painting framed and where they seemed to have a good appreciation of what works and what doesn’t work. It’s Youdell’s Art Shop. I looked it up to make sure it was still in business as many businesses in Cumbria have been hit badly by the recent flooding. Yes, glad news, it is in business, so off I went one Thursday afternoon, only to discover what I could have found out beforehand, that Thursday afternoon is early closing day in Kendal. Having driven a considerable distance I was rather disconcerted by this. But I remembered another picture framers, a bit further up the street, and traipsed off in the forlorn hope that they might be open. Well, they were. It’s the Signature Gallery at 16 Kirkland. The man in there was brilliant. He gave me good advice and then quoted what I consider a very reasonable price for framing all three pieces. And then he did it, called me, and I went to collect them a couple of weeks ago. I’m very pleased with the results, and so pleased that I decided not to try to do the job on the cheap.

If the pieces do sell, I don’t expect to profit much by them, once I’ve taken into account the various costs. However, I am just starting out with this, so can’t expect to be making megabucks out of it. Or even any bucks. I know, because of knowing some artists, that it’s well-nigh impossible to support yourself through art. Fortunately, because of the day job, I don’t have to do this. Just as well.

I’ll write a bit more soon about the other work I’m doing for the exhibition.