I am using this blog to chart my journey as I get involved with stitched textiles again after a gap of twenty odd years. I've tried once or twice recently to get started, but time - the lack of it - got in my way. Now seems right though, and this online diary will be my reminder not to let it slip through my fingers again.
Wish me luck.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Painting or Pattern

Sample number 2 is in the sketchbook now, unfinished, but taken a little bit further and far enough.
So what next?
I've taken a little time to do some research, to see what other people are doing in the world of textiles.
It's pretty overwhelming, and threatening to present me with a crisis of confidence. So much variety. Where is my voice now after all this time?
There is some very challenging and interesting work being done, but there is also quite a lot of jumping on bandwagons too.
I admire so much and so many people - Jan Beaney, Jean Littlejohn, Maggie Grey the list is long.
But though I love their work, it's not me, I've decided.
There is so much "painterly" work being done in textiles - creating layers of texture and colour, with increasingly diverse techniques and materials.
 Maybe I would enjoy working that way, but really I think my roots are in pattern making. After all printed textile design was my main study.
I think that's why I feel at home working on canvas. It's not far removed from the graph paper I was accustomed to designing on.
I like the confines of the grid, but at the same time breaking out of it now and again.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I studied North African textiles in my final year at college, and I was drawn to search out more information on world textiles in general. Tonight I hit on a wonderful website selling Indian woven and embroidered textiles - and although I'm not in a position to buy anything, I found myself getting more and more excited at the complex patterns and colours.

These images above are some of the textiles on that particular website. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm drooling.
The image below is an Albanian coat, which really encapsulates the type of embroidery I was studying at college. I loved the strong areas of pattern and colour against the large expanse of plain indigo.
And these other two images are taken from a book by John Gillow - African Textiles which I have just bought on Amazon, along with World Textiles and Indian Textiles. Pretty extravagant, but hey, I could get a pair of jeans for the same money and they wouldn't give me half as much enjoyment.
And while on the subject of pattern, I also came across an old friend, Raymond Honeyman, while trawling the internet the other day. Raymond was in the same course as me at college, and he had a very single minded approach to pattern, doggedly following his own path and ignoring his tutors. He has continued - very successfully - on that same path all this time, and I've come across his name from time to time. Anyway, I was pleased to find he has a book published , A Passion for Painted Pattern and I snapped it up. I've been dipping into it over the past couple of days and he has not lost any of his enthusiasm. It's a joy.
So now I've put my cards on the table. It's all about pattern. Handstitching, applique, canvaswork...drawing inspiration from world textiles.
PS As a footnote, I've just found this little piece of canvaswork I did a while ago called Three Cords. By coincidence,it bears some resemblance to the Albanian coat I think. Well very loosely.

Sunday 11 April 2010

So What's Going On Here?

Your guess is as good as mine.
A few hours' work today. Still very much a sample, still got circles appearing as a recurrent theme, still looking for a direction.
What I'm trying to with this is to explore working canvaswork stitches on an unlikely surface, in this case a piece of newspaper which has been bonded on to 18 count single canvas. To increase the durability of the newspaper, I've bonded a sheer chiffon on top.
I'd had a colour scheme running through my head of retro-ish greens and light red, but I've added a little black as a contrast. Nothing has been planned ahead, simply moving from one shape to another, and making small decisions along the way.
It's still be worked a bit more - I want to repeat the fan shape satin stitches at the top, somewhere else, and I need to work into the large white felt circle which is looking too stark.
So we'll see what develops.
It was supposed to have been a full day of embroidery today and I've been looking forward all week to this time to myself, but the fates were against me, and I didn't actually make a start until this evening.
Oh well, just glad to have had a couple of hours anyway.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Nipping Eyes

I'm tired tonight so although I've just completed today's work (day job), I won't be embroidering or even planning. But I am looking forward to a whole day to myself soon with no interruptions.
My brain has been active even if my hands weren't and there are some starting points waiting to be explored.
The reason I'm tired was the ridiculously late night I had last night. Hours spent roving the internet researching old textiles. My final year study at college was into North African textiles and I didn't pursue it after I left. So now the internet trawl threw up a few interesting bits and pieces.
I also lost an hour (or three) figuring out how to make this a three column blog. It worked, I'm pleased to say.
Well it's goodnight from me, but first -
Shorelines  1989
Colours on Canvas  1987
Floating Fragments  1989

Sunday 4 April 2010

Some Thoughts

I've spent some time this evening going a little bit further with the white embroidery. I've stopped and laid it down, then started again, not sure about whether it's worthwhile putting more time into it. It should go into the sketchbook now, with the important label that it was the piece which rekindled the flame.

I'm ready to move away from monochrome, I think, but I don't want to rush into anything too quickly.

I think I'll take a little bit of time to think and then work on more samples.

Some observations from the past few weeks:

Firstly the physical. After a 20 year gap, my eyesight has got bad - no more taking for granted threading the needle in semi darkness. My varifocals mean I can't focus on a wide area at once - bummer.

My hands are also weary from years of repetitive work in our business, so there are aches and pains. (Work through the pain).

Then the mental. At first I was nervous to start again. I found my pulse racing a bit and quite a high level of stress ( yes really). So much depended on me getting over the first hurdle and keeping going, and then there was ( and is) the worry that I don't have anything left to say and do in embroidery. Also the concern that I've been left behind over the years. So much has happened in the world of textiles.

But after the frst couple of sessions, I began to feel more at ease. It became an enjoyable experience finding my way again. The feel of the needle in the fabric, the rhythm of the stitch, the constant decision making like a puzzle to solve. It became very absorbing and alternately peaceful and exciting. Maybe I have been left behind. But then it's my journey. I don't have to run to catch up. I can go at my own pace, off on my own tangent.

Memories have started to return. Like the feeling of excitement, the buzz when a good decision made pushes you on in a new direction, when things are working out the desire to keep looking, from all angles, to think hard, not to leave it.

The idea that there is so much more to come if you let it.

Other memories - remembering where I was actually going when I stopped to pursue another career. It has taken this white piece to make me realise that unwittingly I've gone right back to the start, and that I had actually progressed ten years from this point before I stopped. I wonder why I went right back to the start? To what I was doing when I left Art College? Anyway, I now remember that I had moved away from so much work on canvas. Some of it was still there, but only as accents and highlights . This only makes sense to me, I realise.

I am not a tidy worker. Threads very quickly become tangled piles. I lose needles all the time amongst piles of fabric. Mounds of stuff build up very quickly around me, and the yet the work I do is usually not at all messy. Odd.

Finally what I've learned about working today - Well, we are in a digital age now. I do a bit of work. I record on camera. I upload to the computer in seconds. I can crop, enlarge, manipulate and finally post on the blog. All while the needle is still warm from my hand.

And the internet. So many people posting images and thoughts about their work. Fascinating and absorbing. I can find articles on historic textiles at the click of a mouse. I can converse with a like minded individual on the other side of the world. I can follow the progress of other people's journeys in textiles. And of course I can waste hours of valuable time.

I also found this slow cloth ethos, just when I needed it most. So I don't like working on a machine - I don't need to feel obliged to. I like the feeling of simple stitching through fabric, and watching the slow progress.

Last but not least I have space to work now, if not as much time as I would like. Thanks to the business, I have a light and spacious workshop. I can lay things out and leave them to come back to. I can work in peace and isolation. That's good.

Saturday 3 April 2010

All Together?

A better image of yesterday's work.
And how about combining all three pieces?
I'll work some joining pieces to link it together. I've tried rotating the pieces and moving them around but this way seems to work best.
We'll see.
Nothing is cast in stone.

Friday 2 April 2010

Getting Somewhere

Here is the fruit of another few hours this afternoon.
It doesn't look like much as yet, but I do believe I'm going in the right direction.
This will most likely only get as far as the sketchbook, but there were one or two things I was wanting to try out which have been floating about in my head for a day or two.
It has been so tempting to ditch the monochrome theme, but I'm persevering for the time being if only to rein myself in from running before I walk, as it were.
There was no thought or planning beforehand here, just cut some squares of different white fabrics, bonded them on to the canvas and started stitching. Of  course the circles theme had to be present as well.
I think the afternoon's labours have been worthwhile if only to allow some healthy self criticism - I know what hasn't worked, but also some parts which are worth pursuing.
Anyway, I've found this little piece of vintage canvaswork ( circa 1980) which I never finished but has a circle of tufting stitch in the centre.
And a few other old bits.
Hopefully I'll have some time tomorrow as well - I'm on a roll here!