Sunday, 29 April 2012

Geisha - a new quilt for Minerva. Long posting, sorry!

I thought that because the space was a bit bigger at Minerva, I would do a larger piece - more along the lines of the Life series I'm working on for another exhibition.

I've been trawling the interweb trying to find out about Geisha's and the Tea Ceremony, and very interesting it all is too!!

I don't know if anyone else out there will be madly interested, but I thought I'd regurgitate some of the things that I've found out.  I've got a rough idea where I'm going with the quilt but it may seem a little odd compared to the last 3 I've made for Orientation!  Anyhow, here's what it will be based on. (model coming on Wednesday, so not a lot of thinking time left!)  Naively I thought this Geisha stuff was all a very chaste, decorative and zen, but apparently it's not - or at least the roots of it all aren't.

Geisha's and Tea Ceremonies are inescapably linked, but the world of the Geisha is much more complicated. Basically their history starts pre-600's as female entertainers and included sexual services. In traditional Japan men were not expected to be faithful to their wives, who would be a "modest mother and manager of the home" (rather like my goodself!!) and for sexual enjoyment and romantic attachment they went to couresans. The original "Oiran" (early Geisha) combined being an actress with prostitution, and dancing.  The dancing side was called kabuki and the wild erotic dances became the beginning of the kabuki theatre.

In the 18th century the first Geishas appeared, and were men. (there are still male Geisha today) They entertained customers waiting to see the courtesans.  The first female Geishas were trained as chaste dancers for hire; they called themselves Geisha after the men, and were paid to perform in the private homes of upper-class samurai. They were forbidden to sell themselves for sex to protect the business of the Oiran.  Prostitution was legal in Japan until the1950's and as such was widespread. Since the 1960's girls are no longer sold into indentured service as Maiko and trained to become Geisha, nor are the coerced into sexual relations - her sex life being her own private affair. However I discovered that even in 2001 the auctioning of a maiko's virginity could still happen, and that the men she meets are carefully chosen and unlikely to be casual. Although the ceremony for deflowering a young maiko is supposed to be illegal it's considered a right of passage and part of the understanding a professional geisha should have of the opposite sex, and still occurs.

And if you've stuck with this so far, here's a little bit about the makeup and hair.  Maiko (the young girls who train to be Geisha) have a scarlet fringe on the collar of their komono which hangs very loosley at the back to accentuate the nape of the neck. This is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality.  She wears white makeup on her face and on the nape, leaving two or three stripes of bare skin exposed.

Her kimono is bright and colourful with an eleaborately tied obi hanging down to her ankles. She takes very small steps and wears traditional wooden shoes called okobo which stand nearly 10 centimeters high. There are 5 different hairstyles that a maiko wears and they mark the different stages of her apprenticeship. They spend hours each week at the hairdresser and sleep on holed pillow to preserve the elaborate styling. They can develop a bald spot on the crown caused by rubbing and tugging in hairdressing and it has become associated with womanhood and a particular hairstyle adopted after a maiko's first sexual experience.  They wear lots of hair combs and pins.  Traditional hairstyling is a dying art and today many women use wigs.

They wear a thick white base makeup on their face with red lipstick and red and black accents around the eyes and eyebrows. The white base was originally made from lead, but was replaced with rice powder when the effects of lead poisoning became known. Its a time consuming process to apply with a wax or oil applied next to the skin.  The white powder is mixed with water to a paste and applied with a bamboo brush starting from the neck and working upwards. Leaving some areas of the neck, and around the hairline uncovered (see above) gives the illusion of a mask.  A sponge is then patted to remove excess moisture and blend the foundation.  Then the eyes and eyebrows are drawn in traditionally using charcoal to colour them black. A maiko also applies red around her eyes.

The lips are filled in with a small brush, and the colour comes in a small stick which is melted into water, and sugar added to give lustre. The lower lip is coloured in paritally and the upper lip left white initially but coloured later when the girl become a geisha. The idea is to create a flower bud so the whole of the lips are rarely coloured. For a brief time Maiko also colour their teeth black to contrast to the white face makeup and make them disappear when their mouth is open.

You don't have to be Japanese to be a Geisha. Liza Dalby in the 1970's, an Australian Fiona Graham, in 2007, and in 2012 A Romanian and a Ukrainian. You are expected to remain single and retire if you marry.

Enough?  Perhaps I'll leave the tea ceremony for another time!

Friday, 27 April 2012

You Might Like...

Just got my hands on the latest copy of Artists and Illustrators magazine and there's a feature in there on an artist called Ruth Winding. If you like the odd touch of gold then you might like her style...

Bye for now,

Thursday, 26 April 2012

SiX + Friends - 2 = our first meeting!

Readers of this blog might wonder what's the toughest part of working towards an exhibition as a group and the simple answer is...

Getting nine busy career women all in one place at the same time! Of course with Catherine in Vancouver we knew it would be a bit of a long shot but we put the invite out to the rest of the group to come to Linda's today for our first get together. Fortunately seven were able to make it which is pretty amazing. Ineke and Catherine, we missed you and I will email later with all the minutes of the meeting (we'll use that term loosely!).

The best part and real point of the day was to see what each other is working on and we have to say, although we know you'll think we're biased, that the work being made is looking superb.

Of course we all pore over each other's work. Here we are scrutinising Annabel's quilts!

And here is Steph's work in progress which is looking really exciting. These panels will go together with others to make a much larger piece.

Here are some pages from Edwina's sushi inspired sketchbook and underneath you can just see some of her fabrics which use direct drawing with dyes.

And here are some pages from Marie's sketchbook. She's finding the animals that appear in Eastern culture to be a fascinating source. It was great to see Hilary's latest pieces in real life too, but my pictures were hopelessly blurry. You'll have to take my word for how good they are and come and see the exhibition!!

Of course as soon as the business was over and the show and tell packed safely away it was time for food. Linda was our hostess and so after cherry shortbread elevenses it was time for lovely salads and homemade focaccia rounded off with Annabel's rather delicious flour-less, but not exactly calorie-less chocolate and hazelnut cake. Mmmm.

Needless to say, a good time was had by all and considering that we had never got together before, this group really seems to gel so well with much mutual admiration and hilarity. For those of us not so far along with our exhibition pieces, and I'm saying nothing, because I fall firmly into that camp, I know we feel very inspired to crack on and get ours done.

I think this is going to be good.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

at last some pix

I know it's been a long time coming, but I finally managed to get logged in and post some pictures of my work so far.  I've got three pieces painted, printed and ready to quilt. I've worked on vintage french linen, kept the first one white,  used some dyed red linen for the second piece and pieced the third one using both fabrics and added some navy.  The chinese words I googled and mean things like , bird, wings, fly, sky etc. I'm thinking about the drawing challenge and you never know I might do a bit of that too..

Friday, 20 April 2012

twenty to life...

I can't let you guys have all the fun! though I can't come close to being as clever as the drawings Laura is doing and my subject is a lot less hairy than Hilary's.
I'm not sure if this is cheating but it was life night on Wednesday so that's where my drawings are from this week ( and maybe next as well)  but they are timed drawings...I hope you all won't ban me from the challenge!?

This is  Debbie...both 20 minutes with charcoal pencil on newsprint.

second 15 minutes

I am loving this - well done Marie/Annabel for the suggestion. It's the time limit that is making it so great for me - it makes it do-able timetable wise and stops me fussing. My boy again and this was hard - and I haven't got his eyes/face quite right ... but that is why we are doing this isn't it? - to improve. I just know these sketches are going to feature in work in the future. And now, having just been wowed by Laura's, I am going to have to put an ipad back on the birthday list!

Today's drawing

Well actually it was last night's quick drawing. We've had Brushes on the iPad for ages, but I've only really played with it once before. Of course with Hockney's work being the thing of the moment I was reminded about it and thought I'd have a bash. It is not easy! I did think the sort of marks that are possible to make would translate quite well to stitch though.
Bye for now,

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Here is my first 15 minute daily sketch. Those who know me might have guessed that sketching animals is something I am very keen to be able to do profficiently. This is my best boy - in pencil and from a photo as Dixter never stays still long enough, although I would love to be clever enough to capture him in those few seconds ... but one thing at a time! I can see all sorts wrong with it, but I am actually quite pleased with it for a first attempt. It has got something of his essence. I am very excited to see how this develops and hopefully my skill increases as the days/weeks go by ... and 15 minutes was easy to find - Hilary x

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Second Pot

Hello everyone - I'm delighted to report that I have finally got my second pot piece finished. As it has been quite a while, I thought a very brief re-cap might be in order. So below is roughly where we started with this one:

Which was then worked on and adapted a little, quilted and some painted bondaweb and foiling added - all aiming at pulling those disparate fabrics together a bit. So that got us to here:

I then went on to add the pot and tree in raw edge applique, together with some japanese lettering which reads 'Bonsai'. The quilt was then backed, bound and mounted on a board, as with quilt one. So here is 'Oriental Pot 2: Bonsai':

You have to love my titles don't you? I view them as ironic (not)! Here is a detail which hopefully helps to see the effect of the painted and foiled bondaweb 'moon', although you have to see it in the flesh to get the glimmer:

And finally - here is a quick shot (not well composed - sorry, it was raining) just to give the idea of how the two pot pieces will sit together. There will be a third, which will sit on the right and balance them up - at the moment I think it will be orchids, but that might yet change! - Hilary x

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

First drawing for the challenge

Okay, now you know why I need this challenge! Graphite stick on watercolour paper.

Drawing Challenge

Did someone throw down a gauntlet? Did I say that I was too busy to join in? Oh well, don't believe everything I say. Fitting things in is all a case of priorities. We have nothing ready for dinner tonight, but I have a drawing to show you.

 Don't know how you want to work this, but for the record here's a bit of info. It's the first prep study for the drawing that needs to go on my birdcage quilt for Orientation. It's worked across a double page spread of my A4 sketchbook using graphite pencil. Spent about 40 minutes on it. Guess that's why I love drawing so much more than quilts sometimes, you've got to love the speed you can get things down.
With this drawing done I feel more confident now to draw on the quilt top. I'll do this direct, probably with Inktense as they'll be the more permanent than graphite, but I might add some fine pen too if I've got some.
Looking forward to seeing the results of what everyone else is working on!
Bye for now,

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Congratulations, Hilary and Stephanie, both winners at Uttoxeter!
I had a splendid day out and spent very little! The embroidery exhibition was truly inspiring, some exceptional work, or have I just not been looking closely enough?
Anyway, it was worth the journey, even from here in Herefordshire.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Just fiddling

Sunday was wet and miserable, and I didn't get any choccy eggs (just as well!) so I was at a loose end. As I get older I get less and less able to just sit and do nothing;  I twitch and get irritable, and need to be doing!

So I just had a play with some Chinese artefact photos that Hilary kindly sent me a couple of months ago, following a museum visit she made.  They are simply copied onto fabric and appliqued to cream silk, and stitched.  It was very satisfying working on something small, but I don't know what I'll do with it!

I also had another attempt at the red teapot on the tiled floor with bamboo, but to be honest, it was so ghastly I couldn't look at it anymore and put it in the bin!!  :))

Sunday, 8 April 2012

from skirt to quilt, well nearly

Hi everyone,

I know this isn't very thrilling, but I thought I ought to show you all what I've been working on this weekend. Do you remember the skirt from the fashion show that got cut up? Well, I assembled all the pieces on my design wall and when they were in roughly the right places I held them in place with some temporary spray adhesive. Last time you saw it, it looked like this:

The benefit of using temporary spray glue is of course that it is temporary so I had to get right on and stitch it together permanently.

Everything is simply laid down raw edge and I've held all of the pieces with a simple running stitch worked near the edge with a hand dyed thread. 

I'd really like to hand quilt this whole piece, but life (or deadlines) is just too short this time so it'll be machine quilted maybe with a bit more hand stitch detail if it seems appropriate.

Because this quilt top is something of an assemblage the composition doesn't make sense anymore. The ribbons used to reach the waistband of the skirt but now they stop dead and the cages and birds hang in mid air! The idea I have is to extend the drawing of the ribbons to reach a large key ring (with lots of keys) held by a hand. To that end I've taken some photos today which I hope I'll be able to work from. These are about the best (it's a rubbishy grey day for photos).

I'd quite like to add in lots more cages too. I'm thinking of the masses that you see in bird markets in the Far East. When I looked for a photo to post here from the web they all seemed to be copyright, but you know the sort of thing I mean. Next step will be to start the drawing of the hand, keyring and extra keys. I think I'll use a fine black pen, but I'm worried it might not be bold enough. We'll see.

Bye for now,
P.S. I've started blogging on the Fingerprint website too. I've kicked it off with the first part in a bit of a series about the digital printing process. There's a link in the sidebar or you can get there from here.