Saturday, 28 July 2012

A few words

SiX (at The Courtyard, Hereford) - From left: Bobby Britnell, Marie Roper, Catherine Nicholls, Linda Kemshall,Edwina Mackinnon and Laura Kemshall
It is with great sadness that I announce to you that our fellow artist, tutor and dear friend Marie Roper has died.

Marie was a founder member of the group, one of the 'original SiX' who got together in 2000 with no greater aims than to have fun, inspire each other and make some work. Since that time members of the group have come and gone, we've worked with guest artists and of course, most recently teamed up with new Friends. Throughout that time Marie produced the most beautiful work. Her art quilts and exquisite needle sculpted dolls delighting visitors each time they were exhibited.

The diverse personalities in a group are always an important part of the dynamics. Marie was never the loudest or the most outspoken, instead she took a quieter presence, one with experience, vast knowledge and skill in her craft and a kindness and generosity of spirit. As we stage our Orientation exhibitions later this year and into next we will be less without our absent friend.

The huge number of messages of condolence that have already arrived in our inboxes is testament to the way Marie was able to touch so many people with her work and her teaching, not only those who had the fortune to spend time with her, but even those who she had never met beyond the realms of email and the internet. Marie was a wonderful teacher, one with a rare gift for drawing out the best from each and every student. She held no prisoners and would tell it straight, but always with encouragement, support and an enthusiastic passion. We know from the many students who have written that the skills they have learnt from Marie will continue to inspire them and that will be part of her legacy. It is with regret that she will never know the influence she had, that quite so many people respected, cared and loved her even from afar.

I'm sure we all have our own memories of Marie. I so admired her as an artist, one who trod her own path and found her own way. Although we encouraged her to work in sketchbooks as she could draw beautifully, I was always so impressed that much of her work stemmed from walking in the countryside, observing, absorbing, feeling the power of a place. Back in the studio out that would flood into stunning abstract art quilts filled with presence and soul.

It is rare in the world to find someone who's truly on your wavelength, but when you mention in passing to someone that you're perhaps going to do some work with swallows, then weeks later she phones to say 'I've found a perfect dead swallow, would you like it?', you know that person understands and operates in the same way as you do.

That little bird she gave me was a real treasure and each time I look at the drawings I made from him and the quilts that I stitched I'll think of her and whisper 'thank you Marie'.

With my love,

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Well now, is anyone up for a little controversy?  In it's mildest and politest form may I add.

 It's about the genre of Life Painting and whether or not you think it should be on a quilt. 

 As well as the three pieces I've done for the Redditch Needle Museum for the Orientation Exhibition, I was planning to do a couple more for the larger venues, as the exhibition travels around the country.

These were going to be on my current theme of Life Stories.  It's a rich seam (pardon the pun) for me and there's loads more I want to do and say.

 In one I was going to explore the life of a geisha and contrast it to our own tea ceremony with cup cakes and a proper teapot!  The other was going to be called "Still Life" about zen and meditation.

Two very well known art magazines have been in touch recently to ask me about doing articles on me and my stitching.

I was over the moon! Who wouldn't be?  But then I was told that it wouldn't be possible to show any images of my work because there was an "editorial" ban on putting nudes in the (quilting) magazines.

So, then I got to thinking.  Life Painting is a perfectly acceptable form of art, and is widely seen in art galleries across the world. There is nothing shameful in the human body or it's portrayal of it.  Throughout time people have been painted without clothes on. Indeed some of the worlds greatest paintings contain nudes and it is still a universally  established art form in our time with exponents such as Hockney, Bacon, Dali, Freud....the list is very long! 

So why on earth shouldn't there be quilts with life paintings on them in quilting magazines?

Presumably the editors of magazines are aware of all these things; perhaps they have visited cities like Rome, where the churches are adorned with naked people. But, of course, the magazines are theirs, and they can do precisely want.

But, my current work is based on exploring the female form, and using it to express my art - confronting people with reality, and fighting back against the images forced at us by the media, about what is and is not a perfect body; challenging and throwing realism to the fore.

 So, I'm hesitating.

I can't seem to divorce what I sew from what I want to say about female issues.

To do an article about my work without  including images of what I do, seems odd. It's also rather unfair to deny me the opportunity of speaking to the quilting world at large.

It seems to me that the "Fine Art World" calls quilts craft, and denies the fact they are a growing art form, and yet the quilting world does the opposite, and accepts them only as a craft, and won't accept the art.

Any thoughts?

Friday, 13 July 2012

daily exercise

No no no - not jogging ..... drawing. A couple of months back we had a discussion about the importance of regular drawing as an underpinning to our work. Very similar to the need for an athlete to work out regularly actually, only a lot more fun to my mind. Anyway - gauntlets were flung around merrily and I decided to try and make just a little time each day for drawing - 15 minutes ... seemed achievable to me. And it has been, by and large. I started with lots of drawings of my dog, trying to get to know him in such detail that I would be able to draw him quickly. I loved that and it is still work in progress. But I needed a change (dog is disgusted), and decided to try some landscapes. These are from photos at present. but my ultimate aim is to be able to render the essence of a landscape quickly in the open. These are quite hard - a lot of information to get down in 15 minutes, and that's still at photo stage. Prioritisation is needed and I'm starting to identify the things I need to get down: darks and light, strong shapes and outlines and the dominant lines. I hope that my skills here will improve, so that I have the ability to capture what matters when I am out and about. There are always those things that defy the camera - and landscape is often one of them, so I shall keep at it. So here are some first efforts. Not brilliant drawings, and some very dodgy perspective, but trying to hone in on what was important. Maybe when the rain stops, I'll be ready for a go in the real world! - Hilary x

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Another treasure

I saw a lovely Geisha figure in a local antique shop a few weeks ago and thought she'd be perfect for a Victorian glass dome I bought at auction in the spring. The shop owner measured her for me and I checked the height of the dome as soon as I got home. Imagine my disappointment when I returned to the shop and she had already been sold. What I didn't know until my birthday yesterday was that it was my mother who had bought her for me!

She stands 17 inches tall and wears a lovely silk Kimono.

Rather difficult to photograph her under the dome (and I'm so scared I'll break something that I don't want to remove it again!) but you can just make out the stitched fabric fingers. I don't know what she's holding - Annabel have you any idea? They are pierced, slightly curved rectangular shapes painted metallic gold and threaded with a cord.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ready for binding

Finally I have all the quilting complete on the first piece for Orientation. This one's been weeks in the making so it's a big relief to get it to this stage. 

I know, I know, before you comment, it's a top notch photo! Seriously, there's no sleeve at the moment so I can't pop it on the stand and had to photograph it on the floor instead. It's such a long thing and a thank you that it's impossible! As you can see I've squared it off. The original plan was to leave the irregular shape, but once the quilting was done it just seemed better to crop the composition a bit tighter.  Besides, I think it needs a dark binding to give it a strong outline so I'm going to bind rather than face. 

It's all free hand quilted, mostly on the longarm and just a few finishing bits on the regular machine.

So that's one down and three more on the list to do. These will be smaller though and more manageable  - I hope!

Meanwhile I've also been working on something new. This quilt is all digitally printed onto cotton poplin. The central area is a layered collage of a digital photo of my favourite wintry hedges and a drawing I did earlier in the year. I've added some pieced columns to the left and right hand sides. It went on the longarm today and I've started the quilting. I'm really enjoying working on this one. I'll head over to the Fingerprint blog in a moment or two and add some extra pictures of it on there. Do take a look!

Hope you're all keeping busy. Talk to you soon,