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.








Long absence

Yes, it’s been a long absence from the blog. Sorry. Health problems, I’m afraid. I’ve had a couple of quite long drawn-out problems to contend with and I’m not quite sorted yet. However, the neck and back problem that cropped up again late in July is now largely vanquished, thanks to some excellent physiotherapy. Here in the UK you can get access to physiotherapy services on the NHS but I know that there’s typically a long wait. For readers outside the UK – the NHS can be absolutely wonderful. It’s a Very Good Thing and we should be proud to live in a civilized country that provides free access to healthcare for all. It’s also very cheap and efficient compared to healthcare provision in say, the USA or in some other parts of Europe. If you have a limb hanging by a thread or are in imminent danger of falling off your twig because of some vile disease, the NHS steps in and sort you out. It’s very good indeed for acute problems. Where it’s sometimes less impressive is for chronic problems. (And if you’re mentally ill you have little chance, because of budget cuts in recent years).

Where I live (I think this is not the case in all areas) you can access private physiotherapy services quite readily by ringing up a clinic and making an appointment. So when I started getting serious pain in my upper back and neck I didn’t hesitate – I rang up the clinic straight away. The receptionist mourned the fact that she couldn’t provide me with a same-day appointment, but provided one for the following morning. I improved rapidly, but then at around a fortnight into the treatment I decided to award myself an afternoon off work to do some stitching. I’d not done any for a while because of the intense pain in my neck, but I thought it might be a good, relaxing, thing to do. Big mistake. No, HUGE mistake. By the following day my back was very much worse. I sloped off to see the physio and she asked me to detail for her all the activities I’d engaged in on the previous day. When I got to the stitching, she stopped me…’that’ll be it’, said she. And of course, I could tell she was right. So there was no more sewing for me for a while. I half-heartedly suggested that perhaps I could do some machine stitching but she vetoed that as well.

However, all things must pass, and gradually I’ve got better. I was able to pick up my work for five or ten minutes and then gradually for longer periods. But I still have to be careful not to stay in the same position for too long. It’s preventing me getting really immersed in the work, unfortunately, but I suppose I’m just going to have to be sensible.

In mid-July I wrote a post about composing a piece based on cochineal, inspired by Paul Klee. I’ve continued to work on this, although in small fits and starts, and here’s a view of the almost-completed piece in the hoop:Cochineal composition in hoop

Despite the physical problems, this has been a joy to work on. I love the pinks. I’ll write more about the piece next time.


Developing an idea

I thought I’d write today about developing an idea, specifically the idea Layered fabric sample - close upI started with last year that was inspired by my visits to the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember this image; this is of work in progress on a sample using blocks of satin stitch to appliqué various ground layers in different fabrics. I’ve taken this idea up again recently and have worked a sample in white, antique white and cream, adding in a bit of lace to the ground work: Whitework - inspired by Paul Klee

As well as exploring the idea in stitch I’ve also been working on it in a sketchbook. This book is around A3 in size, and is filled with Khadi paper. I bought it at the Royal Academy shop where they sell a few artists materials. I’m very much taken with Khadi paper and I thought the large A3 format was very inspiring. So far I’ve mostly used Derwent Inktense pencils, which I have in a very limited range of colours (bought a few in a shop in Northumberland that I happened to come across). NB – have linked to Amazon as there are lots of customer reviews of the product on there. I’ve also used the Inktense blocks – my son bought me a set of 12 for my birthday last year – but on this project so far the pencils have been more useful. I just love the Inktense products. You can use them dry to draw on paper, then add varying amounts of water for different effects. Or wet the paper and then draw, to get an even more intense colour.

I’ve filled several pages so far. Below are a couple of shots of one of the pages I’ve completed. I’ll let you know more about this project as it develops.

Paul Klee inspired drawingInspired by Paul Klee


Off sick again

Paul Klee inspired pieceYes, I’ve been off sick again. What a nuisance. My last blog post was in March, just before I went on the life drawing course with Rachel Clark. I had a wonderful, action-packed, weekend and came home dog-tired on the Monday. By Wednesday I was starting to feel distinctly unwell, and by the weekend I knew I had a very nasty cold. Usually, when you get a cold you know you’re in for a few days of feeling grim at various levels, but that in another week or so you’ll be feeling fine again. But, this time, no…… I’ve had real flu before but this wasn’t real flu. It was like getting a series of cold viruses, one after another. Weeks went by, and I still felt awful. I didn’t start to feel well again for over a month. What made it worse was that it caused a flare-up of the jaw inflammation that I whinged about at length a while back. One way and another I’ve felt pretty sorry for myself rather a lot of the time for many months. Still, all things must pass and eventually it went away and now I’m back to as near normal as I get. It’s great to feel well again and to have enough energy to get on with things.

So, what have I been getting on with? A couple of months ago I started a whitework piece that built upon the Paul Klee-inspired work that I did last year. Reminder – at the top of the post – this is what the original piece looked like. Below the white version:Whitework - inspired by Paul Klee  I enjoyed putting the different fabrics together, and because I didn’t have colour to provide contrast, I had to do my best with texture. A useful addition was sinamay which provides some body and interest. Find out about sinamay here. It’s the woven stalks of the abaca tree, apparently. I found a roll of it on sale for five quid in the Manchester branch of Paperchase some time ago, and I’ve found it really quite remarkably useful. Worth a look, anyway. I also added a bit of lace which you can see on the right hand side.

I decided that I’d really like to develop this idea further, and that a good next step might be to do some drawing around the theme. I’ll discuss this and share images in the next post.

Incidentally, looking back over the 120 or so posts I’ve written since I started this blog, I can see that I’ve done a fair bit of whingeing about health issues. Apologies for that. I think I’ve had a rough couple of years…. Must do better….

Stitching inspired by Paul Klee – finished piece

Back at the end of January I wrote a post about a piece I was working on, inspired by my visits to the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by other projects, but I was quite resolved to get this piece finished, and now I have. Here’s a photo of the completed piece with my embroidery scissors alongside to give you an idea of scale.Paul Klee inspired piece

This represents quite a lot of hours of work because I find working satin stitch is quite a slow process. It’s far from being my favourite stitch, but I did enjoy working this piece. I like the way the various layers of different coloured fabric show through the stitching, and have the effect of subtly altering the perceived hue of the stitches.

Paul Klee inspired piece close upHere’s close-up of the stitching to show you how raggedy and uneven my satin stitch can be. This is partly because I’m too impatient to spend time on getting it perfect, but also because I’m still having trouble with my right thumb (I wrote about this quite a while ago). I mentioned this to the doctor the other day and he sent me off for an X ray of the offending object. I’ll see what he says when the results come back but I have a nasty feeling that the problem may be arthritis.

I do like this effect, and I will probably do more. I was thinking about trying out something a bit more linear (as opposed to blocks) next time and will post about it if I do. For the time being, though, I want to concentrate more on continuing my experiments in dyeing, and also on doing some more prolific work for my course which has been rather neglected of late.

What I’m stitching right now

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a layered stitch sample that I’d completed. It was inspired by seeing the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. I was pleased with the technique and thought I’d take it a bit further into a larger piece and got cracking straight away. I’m nowhere near completing it, but I thought I’d show you progress to date.Layered fabric sample

The plan is to have the main area of bright colour placed towards the centre of the sample, with duller greyscale colours on the outside. However, I’ve found previously that these plans can be deceptive; you select a set of rather sombre colours, but then put them together and suddenly by some magical process the finished piece seems a positive riot of colour. The pale green in the foreground looked grey when I selected it, but now it’s definitely green. It seems to me sometimes that the subject of colour is just inexhaustible and that I’ve done no more than nibble at the remotest edges of it. Still, like most things that are worth doing, it’s not likely to be easy.

The next photo, below, shows the same work from a different angle. Layered fabric sample - close upThe colour that looked pale green in the first photo now looks much more washed out and grey. You just can’t be sure of anything, but I’d have to say the first photo looks more accurate to me. I’ll keep plugging away at this – there are still some quite large areas to stitch, and I’m enjoying the process.

Layered fabric sample

Here’s a layered fabric sample I’ve been working on over the last three days. It’s small – around 9cm x 9cm but even so, there’s quite a lot of stitching in it.Layered Fabric Sample

The base is lightweight calico with small pieces of other fabrics laid on top of it: white cotton organdie, silk organdie (grey/silver), a small piece of Indian brocaded fabric (bottom left hand corner) and over it all a very sheer piece of black organdie. I basted these layers together and then embroidered little blocks of satin stitch all over the surface. The idea for this came from – who else – Paul Klee. One of the many techniques he experimented with was a kind of pointillisme where he covered the surface of a painting, not with dots, but with little blocks of colour. The effects he achieved with this are quite amazing. Here is an image of one of his best-known works: Ad Parnassum (1932), which uses the block painting technique.Ad Parnassum by Paul Klee

This is actually a very big painting by Klee’s standards so the photo doesn’t really do it justice. I should add that I’ve not seen this particular painting; unfortunately it’s not in the Tate Modern exhibition. But I hope you see the point, and see what I was trying to do in this tiny sample. I’ve used very sombre colours in the black/grey range (apart from the yellow, of course), and maybe next time I sample this technique I’ll go for something a bit more colourful.

Finally, here’s a close-up of my sample:Layered Fabric Sample - Close up


Paul Klee: second visit

Last Thursday, as planned, I made a second trip to Tate Modern to see the Paul Klee exhibition. It’s not often I get the opportunity to go and see a big exhibition for a second time, but from the limited experience I’ve had of doing this, I think it’s well worth while taking a second or even third look at something that really appeals to you. A few years ago, for reasons too tedious to explain, I spent a week in Toronto with very little to do. I soon sought out the Art Gallery of Ontario and spent several hours each day in there looking at their outstanding exhibits. I realised that repeated exposure to the same artworks was a really effective way of getting to know them. A potentially rather grim week in a strange city turned into a quite magical experience.

Well, mustn’t lose my thread… This time at the Paul Klee I didn’t feel obliged to try to look at all the paintings but instead homed in on the ones I’d particularly liked last time. I spent longer looking at them, and I looked at them in a more systematic way. Here’s a picture that I really enjoyed seeing again:Fire in the evening by Paul Klee

This is ‘Fire in the evening’ from 1929. The fire is depicted, I guess, in the slightly off-centre red rectangle (almost but not quite a square) which is almost supernaturally visible from quite a distance. When you get closer up you start to appreciate the more sombre colours of the rectangles that surround it. And this is the thing that most struck me on this visit: the variation and quality of the less obvious colours. There is such a vast range of striking colours in this picture alone – subtle pinks and mauves and greys and greens… and so on. I think there’s a textile-like quality here, and you can appreciate the influence Klee must have had upon Bauhaus textiles designs.

This and other paintings made me want to get home and start experimenting with muted shades of colour. Klee used a huge range of shades, and they are beautifully put together. I’ve had a busy weekend working and am looking at another busy week ahead so time available for playing around with colour is strictly limited, unfortunately. However, one of the items in my busy week to come is another trip to London when I will be staying on the South Bank, just, as it happens, around the corner from Tate Modern. So it’s just possible that I’ll be going for a third visit to the Paul Klee…. Watch this space and I’ll report back if I do.


Paul Klee at Tate Modern, London

Last Friday I went to see the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, London. Well, it was outstanding – everything I’d hoped for – and I shall go again before it closes if I can possibly manage it. Paul Klee at Tate Modern

The first thing to say about this exhibition is that it requires a bit of stamina; it fills lots of rooms. My friend Laura and I went round slowly, and took a coffee break at about the halfway point, but it was still pretty tiring. I haven’t previously seen much of Klee’s work, except in reproduction in books and on the internet, and it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to look at them thoroughly. He was clearly an experimental painter from the outset, and many of the really early works in the exhibition show that he was working on familiar themes (use of colour, squares, triangles and so on) from very early in his career. Some of the features we found especially striking:

  • The work sometimes looks very different from a distance. Where Klee has highlighted a particular colour by surrounding it with duller or contrasting hues, the highlighted colour stands out wonderfully well the further back you move from it.
  • The backgrounds are often very interesting with a lot of visual texture; this is an aspect that’s hard to appreciate when you see photos of the pictures in books.
  • Klee often explored quite simple concepts such as colour complementaries, but in a very complex way (see the example below)Paul Klee - Architecture

I’ve loved the Klee paintings of squares ever since I first became aware of them, but looking closely at this exhibition made me realise that the composition of the pictures is often very complex. For one thing, they’re not usually squares when you look closely.

In summary, it was fabulous and I shall do my best to go again.