Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Commission of Angels

A while ago I mentioned things were works in progress and underway. I wrote that post on a Sunday, blithely suggesting that I needed to deliver things by Wednesday. Just after it was set to publish, I realised that I had miscalculated badly and that I actually had to deliver it on Monday (THE NEXT DAY) because we were going to Tamborine Mountain on Tuesday to visit family.  How had I missed that in my planning???!!!???

Big breath in and I went to work to see if I could get it all together. And the good news is that I did - but I tell you I could really do without that additional pressure.

The commission came from somebody seeing my two pieces called Four Friends at The Red Thread show.  They asked if I could make some more.  Their daughter is part of a group of 6 amazing women who their mum has called The Angels. The type of women who are there for each other under all sorts of pressure and stress; long hours, half way across the world from home and through lockdowns and other major events.

The job was to create 6 works with six 'angels' depicted (aka pegs with red thread). To begin, there were peg dramas (did not have enough pegs for 36 - had to buy pegs and hope they arrived). Pegs arrived; beautiful organic beech pegs - but yay (not) they had a waxed coating which would not take staining with tea.

Now what? On Barry's advice, I used boiling water to remove wax coating - tick. Stained them -tick.

The client had brought me her red embroidery threads, so I used six different reds to stitch the top and bottom running stitch lines. I wanted each work to be unique - no two pieces have the same combination of red threads for the angels.

The client also wanted to incorporate the notion of angels some how and I tried to find a way to do that uniquely and discreetly.  Rather than putting halos or wings on the front; I did something on the back.

Once more each set of angel's wings is unique.

I googled my fingers to the bone trying to find six 'easels' that would be big enough to fit the works on. You know when you try every combination of words you can think of? Search every art store you can think of? And then have the happiest of moments when you find them in a catering business for holding menus at buffets??? 

And they could deliver express, so we were still on track.

All of this was happening BEFORE I realised I had less than 24 hours to complete them. At the point I realised, I needed to wind all the thread onto pegs; pierce all the holes, cut all the copper wire and attach them. I had to draw all the angel wings, title them and emboss my mark on them; then attach the backing to the front, and photograph them for posterity...

Ta da! We did it!

The Angels then winged their way across the oceans; and I hope they have landed safely with their namesakes..

It was a lovely job to do and I enjoyed it coming together; but there were a lot of 'moments' with this one!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hear Me Roar, and embossing

I have been working on a new book - collation of things - and was wondering what would be a good title?  This way and that I went, and then it landed. Hear Me Roar.

No prizes for guessing it's a feminist book.

My first proofs are often done with carbon paper - cheaper and faster than inking.

As I played about with registration, I liked the way it re-inforced itself.

After printing I kept over printing to take as much ink off the type as I could, and played with subtle and small rotations of the paper.

Hold that thought I thought.  Imagining if I could actually plan something like that and have the bottom 'roar' just taking off!

And I thought a bit about the covers and wanted to check if I could emboss the feminist symbol, and so far so good.

I wanted to add a little something to the title page. Was it a border? Was it some outlining? Was it some embossing? 

Embossing it was.

And stars it was. Kind of celebratory and sparkly.

A draft playing around with layout of the individually hand embossed stars.

And then it was on to stitching...

Honestly cannot tell you HOW MANY TIMES I had to snip the threads and start again. Why are some days not the days for stitching?  

But the good news is it is done.  I haven't been able to photograph it finished, so that will happen this week I hope.

To settle my mind when I was struggling to stitch the simplest of stitches, I embossed some Christmas cards.

And things settled down...

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Thursday Thoughts...

"Books are the best friends you can have; they inform you, and entertain you, and they don't talk back." 

John Steinbeck

I'm here for books being good friends.  Not necessarily the BEST friends, but definitely excellent ones!  They comfort, they console, they help you along, they do all sorts of things.

Not talking back isn't really a bonus in my mind because sometimes that is what the best of friends do - listen and support; encourage; cheer you on.  I've not heard a book cheer me on; but I guess I have felt validated or encouraged or inspired to try something after reading a book, so kind of sort of.

I think if I ever did a quiz about what I would save; or what I would take with me; or what 3 things have changed my life or blah blah blah....books would be up there for sure.

A stack of books - definition of happiness...

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Play and discovery

 A wee while back I posted about my excitement about purchasing some old letraset. About a month ago, another friend who knew of my search, discovered some and sent me another whole stash. Be still my beating heart!

Life has been busy and has not allowed me the option of just playing and testing and trying things; but on Sunday I took the latest stash down to the studio and hoped I could have a bit of a play, after finishing all the chores on the list. And I did. Yay.

It has been decades since I did this, maybe back in the late 70s or early 80s was the last time?

Here I had been rubbing that first S for a while and though I was done.  But when I checked - the letraset said no.

I then recalled that this was what I was supposed to see - that faded look as it was being transferred or had transferred.

The traditional lift and check...

And we have lift off. Or rub off?

I was working with some Japanese paper - both sides. One is slightly shinier than the other.  I also wanted to test it on some book paper I had. I like how the fibres of the paper are drifting into the lettering.

I am also quite fond of the broken bits, the cracked bits and the bits that just never make it across.  

I think the tests and trials and play were successful.  I used Chesterfield 36pt, and there is still a fair bit of it left!

So, BIG thanks to my friend Caren who shared her stash with me - women friends.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Mist and mizzle

 Sunday morning has become a morning were we walk the long way around into town and have a coffee somewhere before walking back up the hill to home.

Today the cloud was low; and there were droplets in the air. We checked the radar and thought we could still go - if we put on our raincoats and maybe just did the short walk. We also reminded ourselves that we always walk in Scotland, whatever the weather and thought we shouldn't be wimps. Later on we remembered that we always have our waterproof troos on in Scotland as well! 

So after a week away by the water (with no making done, just lots of resting and reading) today is just about droplets from our walk.

A web in the mist.

A dropped coral flower startling against the black asphalt.

Industrial droplets.

Drops on feathery grass head.

Maroon and hot pink combo.

More drops on weeds...

I loved the blurred view of the inside of the agapanthus.

Pretty in pink.

 More industrial drops.

More aggies.

Sage leaves at our front door.

And a phalanopsis  orchid at the studio.  We were gifted this plant (in flower) back in June last year for the opening of the studio to the public.  It lasted several months, then we popped it in the ground outside the studio and were rewarded this year by its return. We are thrilled!

We tipped 55mm out of the rain gauge on return so there has been a bit of water, and as soon as the sun pops out again we'll be able to hear the weeds growing for sure.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thursday Thoughts...

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a way I imagine this is an introduction of sorts to the idea of mindfulness. To be focussed more on the here and now than on the times that were; or the times that will be.

The honest understanding that blunders creep into our days; that we say and do things which we wish we hadn't is good I think.  The way he suggests they are just part of normal, average days helps reduce their imposing memory. Somehow it sets expectations that these things will happen and in many ways, they are not big things.

Which is helpful to those amongst us likely to catastrophise or overblow errors into disasters.

There is always so much hope in a new day, a new dawn.  The chance to begin again is deeply ingrained in our psyches and associated with the early morning I think. And I like the idea of beginning a day serenely.  Serenity seems to be such a lovely way to be (not suggesting for a moment that I manage it!).
However, when I do feel serene, I know it is beautiful and special.

A' Mhoine (The Moss) 2019. The long stretch of bog between the Kyle of Tongue and Loch Hope. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ongoing Friendship

 As I prepared work for The Red Thread exhibition, I muddled around a lot until I landed on my theme.  It fascinates me how I can have a million ideas of what I could do - try this, do that, make these...and they explode out of my brain and onto the page of my journal and I play with them and explore.

And then I realise I need an anchor.  They are too chaotic. Too disparate. I need a thread if you will, that will link things. I need a jumping off point that brings coherence to the body of work - rather than a random collection of ideas.

And so it was with the poem about Women Friends by Pauline Prior-Pitt.  Once I was able to use her words, I could think about how to present them in different ways.

The next step was the returned rusty tin and "Old Friends" emerged serendipitously.

Which led to a run of ideas about small, old tins. Sturdy and strong, intimate enough to hold in the hand. Protective. And the ideas of adding more work to tins grew.

Which led me once again to unbound artists' books.

I think the first unbound artists' book I made was back in 2008 called Quest - and it was a hanging book with pages that could be re-arranged within their fabric holders. Using  a script I designed myself.

My first really thoughtful and purposeful unbound artists' book appeared in 2009 when a friend sent me some words he had written about key moments in his life, to celebrate his 50th birthday. He asked me to make him a book.  So I illustrated the pages and wrote the words out in calligraphy and then came the time to bind it. 

And I simply couldn't. I couldn't bind his life. I couldn't decide and fix the order in which his memories would be read. I couldn't say this was it - when there were so many year to go. My dilemma was solved by an unbound book. I made a box and placed the pages in it in such a way that he could move the story around; change what he saw first, tuck the saddest things away at the bottom and so on. I also included several 'blank' pages Because his story wasn't finished; and we could add to it later on if he wanted to.

And all I can say is my photography has improved in the intervening 12 years!

So with that lengthy blether behind me I turn back to making unbound artists' book about friendship. With a similar theory to my friend's book; friendships change; they alter, they move around and aren't fixed, again the notion of an unbound book was perfect.

I used fabric sent me to years ago by a woman friend (similar to how I used Liz's fabric for Unfurling Friendship). Jennifer wrapped some old sheets around rusty cogs and left them out in the snow for winter (in Connecticut, USA) and I was the lucky recipient of some.

I stitched short lines, long meandering lines, little loopy lines across the pages - friendships can be of all shapes and sizes.

I popped crosses to mark the spot - two friends.

I added two spare pages, a needle and some thread - so the recipient could continue and add to their story.

The poem was printed onto goyu paper and dipped in wax, and stitched into the lid.

 And I made two of them in these lovely larger tins. 

And two in smaller tins.

And they were really popular and I am encouraged to keep making along these lines.

Stories of friendship, ever-changing and growing. Women Friends.