Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On your toes!

Sorry Annabel, but I saw this and thought of you...

Mom and I escaped for a couple of hours this afternoon and whizzed over to Birmingham Art Gallery to see the Lost in Lace exhibition and also the Leonardo drawings. They allow photography of both so long as the flash isn't on! Afterwards I nipped into the PreRaphaelite rooms to look at one of my favourites.
Medea (detail), Frederick Sandys (1866-68)
I noticed for the first time what an oriental feel this painting has, knowing now of course, that the phrase 'oriental' can encompass Egypt too which seems to account for some of the symbolism, but apparently it also references Medea's past life in Japan.  All of the gold behind her head is gilt and is so much lovelier than it looks in the photo. (Not having realised photography would have been allowed I only had my phone with me). 

Feeling filled with inspiration I'll now put all that to one side and go back to the computer and tackle the list of jobs to do - oh well!

Japanese valentine

Had a few minutes of play on my Paint shop Pro software and I suddenly realised I had designed a most peculiar Valentine card, since my husband might faint if I sent it to him I'll send an early one to all of SiX and Friends!

Hopefully something more sensible will come from it that will contribute to my work!


Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gilding in Thailand

Outside a temple in Thailand where DD has been visiting this week.

Inside the same temple where history meets the present day...a monk on twitter?

Below: discarded remnants of temples and shrines.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


Hi everyone,

You all saw Laura's post about printing the fabrics, including some digital designs of mine, well! I have been doing some dyeing towards the exhibition work and when I received the fabric from Laura and put it on my design wall it almost arranged itself into a quilt along with some bits from my stash and the dyed lengths.
There's many a slip between cup and lip, or between design wall and quilt but I'm very inspired at the moment.....so here's a quick pic.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Unrelated but inspirational

Hi everyone,

I don't know if this will be of any interest to you all - having seen the last episode yesterday, I realise that there's been a fascinating series about illuminated manuscripts on BBC4. Last night's focussed on Medieval and Tudor kings and how they used manuscripts to increase their power. The books in the programme are just awe inspiringly beautiful and they finish up with a little look around the Tudor room at the National Portrait Gallery (quite possibly one of the most wonderful rooms in a gallery in the world!)

I've not caught up with the previous episodes in the series yet, but you can see them all on the iPlayer. Here's a link to the BBC page for the series:

Which is where I've pinched this image from to tempt you.

Makes you want to drop everything and find out the gold leaf!

Bye for now,

Monday, 23 January 2012

Happy New Chinese Year!

Happy New Chinese Year everyone. It's the year of the dragon and I found this great picture on the web...

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Just thinking out loud!

 I've just bought a couple of books about Chinese art, as I thought they may provide inspiration and, in the case of the motifs, maybe a free motion quilting pattern or two!

Below is a photo from the book Chinese Art In Detail (it's a British Museum book). It's a contemporary woodcut with water soluble ink by Lian Dong (born 1926) It's called Warm Water of the Dragon River, and was done in 1984.

I loved the simplicity of it.

This says "ice flow" to me, perfectly. It's very easy to see this as fabric and stitch.

It's a woodblock print and portrays a spring scene. "The desolate Dragon River begins to thaw, and only a few small birds stand on the nearest ice block to lend a sense of scale. The print is dominated by strong horizontal bands, in contrast to the narrow, vertical format of the traditional Chinese hanging scroll. It represents a new trend that began in the 1980's in which landscape was depicted as a subject in its own right. Bold white highlights are created by the embossing of the white paper, which also outlines the crests of the hills and the rich black of the water."

I also learned that the term "orient" derives from the Latin word oriens, meaning "east" Many ancient temples including pagan temples and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, were built with their main entrances facing the East. To situate them in such a manner was to "orient" them in the proper direction. When something was facing the correct direction, it was said to be in the proper "orientation". 

The word "orient" changed meaning lots of times. Originally it meant Egypt. It later extended to North Africa and Morocco. During the 1800's it spread to India and to a lesser extent China. By the early 1900's it was used to include North Africa, and southeastern Europe, and today is used to mean China, Korea, Japan, and peninsular Southeast Asia, but not the whole of of Asia.

Washington state prohibits the use of the word "oriental" in legislation and government documentation, preferring the word "Asian" instead. Oriental is thought derogatory.

When thinking about the word "Orientation", I seem to gravitate towards Chinese and Japanese art, but have learned that much of the things I like such as these birds, wallpaper decorated with flowers and pagaodas, and willow pattern plates, were actually made specifically for export to foreign countries, and were not for their own use. So I suppose that most of the historical Chinese art I've been looking at is a western view, and that the art the Chinese made for the Chinese was a bit different and more subtle.

Symbolism is important, and many of the scenes and creatures depicted have meaning which, I confess, has largely passed me by: for example, in the West the dragon is traditionally regarded as fearsome and possibly evil, but the Chinese regard it as a symbol of the Emperor, and also with rain-giving, and therefore fertile crops. It's important, and a thing to be encouraged.  To me, it's just a dragon!!

Some of the most persistent motifs are connected with the quest for immortality and longevity: cranes, peaches, turtles and pine trees, all mean long life. Bamboo, bent in the wind but never broken, symbolizes the integrity of a scholar.

Chinese art was very hierarchical both in techniques and materials. At the top was calligraphy and painting, followed by jade and bronze. Below these came the decorative arts such as lacquer, porcelain and silk. Sculpture was reserved for religious and funerary use. These different classes of materials came about because of the value put on them by the Chinese; they had value if related to antiquity, or the scholarly.

Anyway, although I'm busy doing a quilt unrelated to the Orientation exhibition at the moment, I thought I'd let you know that I'm still thinking about it!!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Hot off the press

We took delivery of a fresh roll of poplin yesterday so today I've finally been able to print some of the images that I've had waiting. Marie you'll recognise these - I hope you like how they've turned out. I think your artwork looks wonderful! I've printed everything at the sizes you sent me. The little ones are quite small though. What did you have in mind? If you'd like them done larger it's no problem, just send me a larger version of the file.
Marie sent me a CD with some of the digital artwork that she's been creating for Orientation. I think you'll recognise the main image as I'm sure she posted it here on the blog a few weeks ago.
With those printed I moved on to some images of mine. These are digital photos that I've been tweaking in Photoshop.
This lot will all go into the steamer tomorrow and then be washed and ironed. Marie, I should be able to get yours in the post to you on Monday so look out for a parcel arriving!

Hope you're having a great weekend.

A little progress

I've added the stems and leaves to the second Iris quilt using fabric paint. I wanted the leaves to be quite swordlike and dark.

They've been painted in indigo with touches of aubergine but I shall add the shadows that would naturally fall beneath the buds and flowers, and where the leaves overlap each other, with a sepia pencil and wash.

You can see how I've started to shade the base of the flower with the pencil here. I think it will look OK on top of the metallic paint. I'm aiming for the effect of gold leaf that you see in a lot of tradition Japanese art. It was such a gloomy day today and the time just evaporated - by the time I got into my workroom the light wasn't good enough to carry on but I shall hope for better conditions tomorrow.

How are you all doing? Hope you're all making progress too!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Good news

Hi Hilary - I've just been catching up with your blog and it looks as though you're teaching at the Quilters' Guild AGM in 2013. Laura and I have agreed to give a lecture on the Sunday morning - will you still be around then? It'd be great to meet up!!


Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Hi Marie, well hi everyone, but this is mainly for you Marie,

Have you been watching Earthflight on the BBC? Last week's episode which I've just watched on iPlayer was about birds in Europe, but they also featured the most amazing shots of the white horses in the Camargue galloping through lagoons. As soon as I saw it I thought of you and your work with horses. I don't know if there are any images on the web anywhere that you could use, but the footage itself is wonderful. You can still watch again, here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018xsc1/episodes/guide

When you see it you'll think of that painting by Walter Crane called Neptune's Horses!


Sunday, 15 January 2012

First one down

Hi everyone,

I've finished the first quilt in this new series. Might not suit Orientation, but I have ideas on how this set of work will progress in a more Eastern direction!

"Two for Joy" 36cm x 96cm

I've used drawings from my sketchbook and reworked them as monoprints direct to white cotton fabric. I was worried that a white quilt will just disappear into a white gallery wall so I've added a plain black binding to give the quilt a definite outline.
I've added extra detail with pen drawing. I toyed with the idea of adding shadows behind the ribbons and the birds, but I've decided to keep this one simple. I quite like the 3D ribbons contrasted with the flat emptiness of the white background.

 The text on the ribbons is from an Egyptian spell that I discovered in my research which talks about swallows. I was very tempted to add just a touch of colour (using Inktense pencils) to the wings and throats of the birds, but I think I'll save that for the next piece.
Really enjoyed making this piece - now onto the next!

Friday, 13 January 2012

linear monprinting

Hi Laura,
I have been playing with the technique, what fun, hard to stop!
Here is a face I've printed, the wonderful texture comes from using a photocopy I had previously crumpled, I find it very pleasing......nothing to do with Orientation!

Plus lots of rabbits, Fibonacci would be proud.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Pot 2

This is the first laying out of fabrics for Pot 2 - which, as mentioned will have a bonsai tree in it. As before, I am using fabrics that seem to have an 'oriental' feel to them, but actually aren't

The right way up - I'm pleased with how this is going, although I shall have to work at it some more to get that pot showing

It is a bit lost on this lively background - although most of my collages start like this - I really enjoy the challenge of keeping those gorgeous fabrics in the background, yet getting my focal points to stand out.

A lighter pattern makes a lot of difference, so I shall be adding this kind of element on top. But I shall probably get the main background down much as is first. I am very happy at this stage of making a piece - it's all new and exciting, and I am full of hope - watch that change!! _ Hilary x

New Year, New Pot

Some great posts recently and I am really enjoying seeing how other group members work is developing ...... some lovely expressive drawing from Marie, Ineke and Laura and Linda. I am just about to go and paint Pot 2 - which will contain a bonsai specimen I think. Will post some images soon - Hilary


Hi Laura,
In the last few days I have finished reading a fascinating book about netsuki, the tiny carved figures used to hold male kimono together. Lots of animals and birds, needless to say, and I have been drawing some of them. The results have the same feel to your drawings.....don't you think? I'd love to include them in my work, there are others, for instance the horse above.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

a start

Over the past few weeks I found some time to do some designing, had a go in my sketchbooks and also had a play day with Edwina and Sue in my studio. The red kite birds I've been working with lend themselves perfectly to be made oriental. Through Google I found a site to translate words into chinese signs - its good fun practising the lines.

The first one

I always find it impossible to compartmentalise my work. I can't separate one theme from another and everything tends to blend and merge. So while swallows weren't top of my list for Oriental subjects, I've been working on them for other things and now I have a suspicion that they're going to sneak into my work for this exhibition too. Swallows do tend to crop up in lots of cultures and I think Chinese are well known for keeping small birds as pets in cages so I'm justifying it.

Regardless of which exhibition venue the work will end up in, I'm just making a start on creating lots of new work. After working head down for months on the Creative Sketchbooks course that we offer, I've got sketchbooks packed with ideas that haven't seen the light of day as far as quilts are concerned. It's actually been quite a long time since I made a quilt. After such a break I feel full of enthusiasm to do lots of stitching.

Here's the first piece in progress:
Apologies for the hopeless photos. My workroom isn't really a cave, but needless to say, all this work is being done between sunset and dawn!
I've monoprinted the swallow using one of my drawings as a guide. It's a brilliant technique and one that I just love, I don't know why I don't use it more! DMTV fans out there - this method actually features in the new show this Thursday so do look out for that if you're interested to find out more.
 The prints are done onto a plain white cotton and I've added extra detail with a fine permanent drawing pen. Now I'm tackling the quilting which is very dense and very low key. All I'm aiming to do is flatten the background so that the birds will appear to be raised. This one will stay just black and white but I have plans for introducing some colour to the next one.

Along with the stitched versions is a painting on a wooden panel .Well there will be, at the moment I've got as far as priming the panel, but now I've told you about it, I feel compelled to get a move on.

Talk to you all soon,

Japanese Artist Ruisuke Fukahori

My daughter sent me a link to the above artist who's goldfish are amazing!  If you scroll down the page for a bit you will find a video of him at work. It's very inspiring.

I think I may have an idea for my minimalist piece folks!!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Orientation Piece 3 (Annabel) - Looking for Japanese lettering

I'm looking for the Japanese lettering for Pine Needles. Google wasn't that helpful, so if anyone knows a reliable source I'd be very grateful!!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Orientation piece 2 finished....well, nearly!

Well, I shall certainly revisit this one and give it a going over at a later date, but it's mostly done now. I have a frame to put around it so it matches the first piece, and a haiku to think of, but we're going to get some distance from each other for a while!!

Here's the process for you. Laura's beautiful fabrics cut and bondawebbed into position, and the background sky painted in using acrylics.

The stitching begins to add definition and narrative.  Applique is added for the trees, leaves, hogweeds in the front of the picture, and the people.

When the stitching was completed, I began to do a little painting to soften and add definition.... and below is the finished quilt.

 A close up of the middle distance.

 And my little slightly stretched people walking amongst the flowers.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

More new beginnings

Linda, what great raven imagery.

My new imagery comes from a couple of disparate strands of my research into Eastern art. I have combined a dragon with a kite design and rather like the result.

I love the richness and complexity of the result but I might have to ask Laura to print it for me, I can't see me painting such a tricky image as this.....in case anyone wants to know, I use Paint Shop Pro to manipulate my images.


Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Beginnings Everyone!

When I start a new piece of work I need to have the basic ingredients in place. I need pictures in my head and preferably a title. No piece I've ever made that has any merit at all has come into existence without the all important name! It's never any good trying to conjure a title after it's made - the name comes first and the work has to grow into it. I've struggled with the Oriental theme because I usually work from everyday subjects. It feels quite foreign (no pun intended) to use anything so far removed from my personal experience so, although I did until she died a few years ago, have a Japanese aunt, I have no other connection even vaguely oriental to inspire new work. I draw and paint crows and rooks all the time because I am aware of them on a daily basis and fascinated by their appearance and behaviour.

They have a mixed reputation don't they? I am aware that some people consider them omens of bad fortune whilst to others they are thought of as clever and inventive. You may remember on a recent visit to Wolverhampton Art Gallery I photographed crows that decorated a number of Victorian chinoiserie objects like this one above and this prompted me to read a little more around the symbolism associated with them. Imagine my delight to find the following (much edited) in of all places, wikipedia!

The most popular depiction is that of a sun crow called 陽烏 or more commonly referred to as the 金烏 or "golden crow". Even though it is described as a crow or raven, it is usually colored red instead of black.
According to folklore, there were originally ten sun crows which settled in 10 separate suns. They perched on a red mulberry tree in the East at the foot of the Valley of the Sun. The sun crows loved eating two sorts of mythical grasses of immortality. The sun crows would often descend from heaven on to the earth and feast on these grasses.  

These grasses in my garden look mythical enough to me - I'm sure they could rise to the challenge.

Folklore also held that, at around 2170 BC, all ten sun crows came out on the same day, causing the world to burn; the celestial archer saved the day by shooting down all but one of the birds.

Doesn't that just conjure up wonderful images in your head? I have included suns and moons in my paintings and quilts for years and now it seems I might even have a reason (other than the fact I love them) for them to be there. All I have to do now is make my black crows red and find out what a mulberry tree looks like!

Hope you are all feeling excited by the coming year and all the creative opportunities it offers! Love Linda

A quick warm up

After what feels like ages I've been back on my sewing machine today. This piece has been hanging around unfinished for an embarrassing amount of time - it's one of the Rail Fence quilts that we made for DMTV in the summer!

I thought it would make the perfect quilting warm up before I tackle something trickier so today, finally, it will be finished! It looks so much better when it's quilted. I'm doing the same pattern all over, just worked a bit smaller in the centre so it's fairly mindless, but satisfying!
Happy New Year to you all.
Talk soon,