Saturday 28 July 2018


I have been a member of a local Embroiderers’ Guild for several years now and have very much appreciated the friendship, skill-sharing and inspiration I’ve found there – not to mention the many bargains to be found on the sales tables! Members have always been very supportive of my work and have publicised Traverse’s exhibitions at the NEC and Uttoxeter on their social media pages, for which I’ve been very grateful.

My concentration on work for those exhibitions  has sometimes made it difficult to find the time to take part fully in the Guild’s activities but recently I was rather taken with the idea of their summer challenge, which involved a very large piece of white card. We were challenged to use some or all of it in any way we wished, as long as there was some stitch on it.

I felt challenged but also not particularly full of creative inspiration, so I took a very easy option and decided to use it for a weaving. I cut the card in two – making the largest squares I could.

I knew I had to have colour, so searched out some of my hand made printing blocks from my Journey work. Remembering the recent Patrick Heron exhibition at St Ives (see my blog 'Looking' below) and elements of his work I'd noticed, I tried placing some of the symbols, near the edges or in the corners, which I wouldn't normally do (and I wasn't sure whether it worked). Then, I coloured the background with some spent dye.

I cut the card into wavy strips and wondered about how to cover the stitch element of the challenge. (I didn't notice that one of the edge strips was missing in the photo below - I did find it again!)

Apart from the fact it was a requirement, I needed to think carefully what else I wanted from the stitch - texture, contrast, decoration?  I decided to use some matching variegated threads to machine a simple line of stitching down each side of the strips; it would provide some texture and a little decoration but no contrast, as there was plenty already with the complementary colours in the warp and weft and I wanted the painted pattern to remain visible - and let’s face it, hand stitching into that thick card would have been hard work. I didn’t want that much of a challenge!

To keep the pieces in the right order, I kept them joined together, as I machined along the edges. It did prove a bit more of a challenge to stop them twisting and tangling, when I then machined up the other side of each strip, still keeping them joined together.

All that complication did mean it was easier to make a square again afterwards though, without too much effort.

I coloured along the white edges with a matching Sharpie to hide them, but forgot to take an 'after' photo to go with the 'before' one below.

I repeated the whole process with the blue square but didn’t photograph every stage – you get the idea by now!

The final challenge of the whole process was weaving the strips together and in some ways that proved the most difficult. I had forgotten to allow for the fact that the thickness of the card, together with all the stitching, would mean that the woven strips wouldn’t fit snugly together, as woven paper or fabric strips would. I had to do a lot of fiddling and a bit of creative placement of the four edge strips to make it work and I think it just about did.

I had planned to cut out a circle and rotate it slightly, as I had done with this earlier investigative piece in my portfolio …

… but despite very helpful suggestions from Becca, I was worried the stitching might unravel (see close-up of stitching below) and I didn’t want to take the risk as other projects were calling me and the deadline was approaching.

I still find myself wondering if it would have worked. Who knows – I might challenge myself to try that later!


Friday 6 July 2018

Looking at Colour

“Colour can be a lifetime of study, the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know!”   
 Julia Triston

Last week Dia and Bernice joined me on one of my organised workshops with Guest Artist Julia Triston. The workshop is held at a local community centre in Yate (near Bristol), my home town and the centre has been part of the community since 1840 first as a Union Workhouse, then a War Hospital, a Care Home and then finally handed to the community to be used as a centre with preschool, nursery, dance school, physiotherapy, conference centre along with rooms for hire. It is a fascinating place full of history and stories (including ghosts!) and I fall a bit more in love with the place every time I visit! This time was no different, look at the gorgeous lavender leading up to the entrance!

Julia was teaching a design skills workshop on “Analysing Colour” and it was a way for us to spend a bit of time re-investigating colour and looking at ways to use colour in our sketchbooks and in our own work. We started off with a discussion on colour – what is colour?; How is it used?; What words describe colour? And finally, what words describe shades of green – wow so many!

We each painted six 4” squares with a specific shade of green (Jade, Mint, Emerald, Olive, Lime, Parrot) from memory and once dry, Julia laid the squares in colour lines first without labels and then with:

My 6 squares of green

Labelled green squares
Dia painting her green squares

It was fascinating to see how we each perceive colour and in fact, how very close we were from memory!

Moving on, we looked at the colour wheel, learning how to create primary colours and then using these created colours to create secondary and shades of complementary colours. We’d all made our own colour wheels before but using purchased primary colours so learning how to create our own was new to us and I can certainly see myself using this technique for my own work in future.

Making a primary red using Koh-i-nor watercolour paint

Making primary colours and secondary colours

Shades of complementary colours

Using magazines to provide colours, we created two collages, one of warm colours and one of cool colours. We extended the collages by matching each colour with paint chart chips. I had a bit of extra time first thing on the second day and had a go at matching the colours with thread.

Bernice has her right hand in a support cast while her hand heals.
It was a struggle but she managed to create her warm collage.

Warm colours

Cool colours
Dia's warm collage and paint chips

Dia's cool collage and paint chips

On the second day we started to look at how we could use the techniques from day one within our own work starting from gaining inspiration for a new theme.

Like many artists, when I start a new theme, I gather sources of inspiration and create a scrapbook of images that fit the theme or make me go “oh” in relation to how I am intending to work. I use a sketchbook, keep a folder of images on my laptop or on Pinterest and I look at the colours but I don’t tend to study the exact shades or the proportions of each colour etc. This is what Julia asked us to do using a source of inspiration we had each bought with us.

Isolating a section of our images, we each worked out what the colours were and in what proportion. Using matching coloured threads on a piece of card, we created a thread chart in the exact proportions that was determined. I found it difficult to match my threads accurately so chose to have a go using paint chart chips, which was surprisingly accurate!

Inspiration Photo and Colour Proportions

Inspiration Photo with thread and paint chip charts
Bernice's inspiration photo, paint chart chips and colour proportion list

As on day one, we used magazines as a source of colour and this time chose colours that matched the image colours as close as possible and created a collage using the same colour proportions. My image is of graffiti on a brick wall so I chose to make my collage more landscape like as I felt the colours worked really well for that type of picture. Once we had completed our collages, we took the exercise into fabric, creating a fabric collage using the as similar colours as possible. Stitch could be added to complete the collage further and I do plan to do this if I have time.

Collage using Colours from the inspiration photo

My inspiration photo, paint chip and thread colour charts, collage and fabric collage

Bernice's inspiration photo, paint chip chart and collage

Finally we moved on to the last exercise which looked at creating new designs from a collage. Using my warm collage, I isolated a small square and made 6 copies of the square by just following and simplifying some of the lines. Using 3 colours in light, medium and dark shades, I was able to create new designs by crossing the boundaries of the lines I had drawn. It is a very simple exercise but very effective. Julia also suggested ideas of how to extend this exercise further and I plan to have a go at these in the next few weeks.

Creating new designs

It was a packed two days and we came away feeling we had learned something new and with more confidence in using colour in our work. I’m keen now to get going with looking at colour more!