Wednesday 27 May 2020

Did I say 'Winds of Change'?

My previous blog referred to winds of change blowing around Traverse and we really had no idea of what was coming or how far those winds would spread! Along with so many people all around the world, our day-to-day lives have changed dramatically - and we are still not sure of the true implications for Traverse's activities. So far, we have only had one show affected - the Quilt & Stitch Village, 17th - 19th April, at Uttoxeter Racecourse has been re-scheduled for 18th - 20th September, in the first instance. We don't know what is happening for the rest of our planned shows and we will wait to hear from them. As I write this, lockdown is slowly being loosened but there are still big questions regarding many aspects of 'normal' life.

I am just grateful not to have lost anyone to the pandemic and have tried to accept the changes with good grace - a life full of virtual choirs, gardening in the sun and possibly a bit too much baking, alongside my creative activities. I've been meaning to write about a piece I actually finished just before everything changed and have decided now is the time! It was conceived as part of our work on the theme of 'Senses', where I have focused on how sight and sound contribute to a sense of place.

Some of you may remember this:

Round and Round the Garden

It was inspired by the gardens of  the South of France, and in particular one in Menton, where we spent a glorious afternoon exploring. We particularly wanted to see the waterlilies and seemed to go round and round through all the other areas, spiralling in towards the pool - the jewel in the centre.

I actually began work on it last October at a workshop with Alysn Midgelow-Marsden but I had prepared the fabric beforehand - kunin felt, transfer printed with a heat press. The design was another link back to the art of Southern France - a homage to Matisse's collage, 'The Snail'. I transfer-painted  computer printer paper in a random way, remembering to note the colour as it always amazes me how they change when heated. The torn painted papers were arranged in a spiral and printed with the heat press, in several different layers, filling in the gaps with consecutive prints.


I intended to use my embellisher at the workshop to add loads of texture and also metal, wire and beads - but I came up against a problem with the embellisher. Although it has 12 needles, it proved very difficult to use on my prepared surface. I've successfully embellished kunin felt many times before so it seemed to be something to do with the heat process - the surface seemed to have melted slightly. I was a bit thrown by this but with perseverance, I found I could use a hand needle felting tool to add some yarn, wool and silk fibres.

Alysn showed us how to use shrink plastic to achieve some interesting effects and I decided to use one sample as the centre of my spiral, adding a little hand stitching and beads. I also found french knots very useful to anchor down some of my scrim and fibres that were rather precariously needle felted in,


In a classic example of 'design through process', my ideas changed significantly as I slowly worked my way outwards. I decided to keep much of the printed felt visible, rather than cover it up with texture as I'd originally planned. I decided against any more beads and wire, using only a few crescent shapes cut from metal coffee pods to give a different texture. I had a circle canvas, which I needed to use for my planned concept, so I outlined the exact size in a variegated running stitch before following the spiral and outlining some of the printed shapes with free motion stitch.

I wrapped the circular canvas and then added more running stitch through the canvas in selected shapes, which served to anchor the work securely. See wrapped canvas and close up of stitch details below (apologies for slightly out of focus image on the left).


When I posted this on social media, I said that it was still not finished and some people wondered where I would take it from here ... and now I'll show you what happened next. My plan all along was to make an ocean drum - it seemed like the perfect evocation of beach walks, with the sound of the ocean and also the amazing shades of turquoise in the sea. One side would be a walk round the garden and the reverse would be a walk by the sea.

During the second half of Alysn's workshop, I began preparing how to show those colours and the translucence of the water.  I made my own printing blocks based on a drawing of the shapes of the ripples in some of my photos of the sea on my holiday and then printed papers and also various stainless steel and copper fabrics with a variety of shades of blue and turquoise. Using soluble plastic film for stability, I cut some of the fabric and began stitching it together in wavy lines.

Back at home, after finishing the garden side, I used the printed paper to line the central well of the canvas, conveniently hiding the running stitches I'd used to anchor the felt and also giving a wonderful splash (!) of colour, especially after a few coats of acrylic wax.

After trialling the metal fabric to see how translucent it was, I decided to change the  scrunched line of copper (towards top of left hand picture) to make it easier to see through to the painted paper beneath.


 It was very difficult to photograph but this close up gives you some idea.

Feeling very pleased with the effect, I explored different sized beads to see which would roll easily and make the best sound. Trials in the open well of the canvas produced many spills and some interesting patterns on the kitchen floor as they bounced out and around! Then I stapled the metal fabric into place and turned my mind to how to hide the staples. I decided to make an embellished border, using yarns and stitch on bright turquoise felt.

I used double-sided extra strong carpet tape to stick it into position and slip stitched it invisibly to the kunin felt covering the edge of the canvas.

Finished at last ...

La Mer

... and it worked!

(Sound doesn't carry brilliantly in this but you should get some idea.)

Well, I've made up for the lack of blog posts recently by writing a mammoth one!

Hope you all stay safe and well,