Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Art Nouveau, the Glasgow Girls and the TIF Challenge

Well, I expressed my intention to base my work for the TIF Challenge for January on the much-admired stucco artists whose creations I saw in Marrakech, but it was a premature and over-ambitious plan for a month when I've been seriously under par. So I've exercised my prerogative to change my mind: needing to create some items on the theme of Art Nouveau, I revisited the Glasgow Girls, Jessie Newbery and Ann MacBeth. I have long admired their design work and stitchery, which follows on and almost bridges the gap between my beloved Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau. I think their prominence in the art world of the time was also important, mirroring the political emergence and emancipation of women which has allowed my own generation so much more freedom of life choices, education, careers, finances and opportunities. I admire the Morris women very much, but I also admire the Glasgow Girls because they owned the design process for their artistic creativity and passed it on to others. I first discovered them during my history research for City and Guilds Embroidered Textiles Part 2, and was thrilled to see some of their work for real when we visited Glasgow a couple of years ago.

I developed the following design by distilling elements of a number of designs and textiles by Newbery and MacBeth,and working it out to fill a 5" square quiltlet.

Then I worked the design up into a cartoon for the quilt, and also two ATCs which I need to make for a swap.

The process of draughting out these designs gave me some insight into how I might work them into textile pieces. My first idea was to use applique techniques, but instead I decided on interpreting them both using silk painting methods. I found some silk charmeuse which I stretched using masking tape onto an old place mat - remarkably effective. The design was placed underneath the cloth, which, in good daylight, allowed me to trace the design directly using gold gutta. Once that was dry, I filled in the spaces with silk paints.

I've painted some more silk in the pink for the back and sashing of the quiltlet, which is drying and so these projects should be completed tomorrow, very much at the eleventh hour. I guess I've not taken the design much further but I hope the GGs would have approved of my interpretation. They were not averse to a bit of gold, after all. And at least, very much at the eleventh hour, I'll hopefully have managed to complete a few challenges for January while revisiting a technique I've not used in ages.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ham Wall Part 2


As sunset developed its colours in the skies, gloriously reflected in the waters, a small flock of birds wheeled across the sky. We found our way through a stand of trees to the rhyne, beyond which was a clear view across a water meadow.


Gradually, more and more groups of birds sped across, making for the same copse of trees. Some groups flew over our heads, others passed to our left or to our right. There would be a pause, then more and more came. Tonight was not the occasion of a dense swarm as sometimes happens, but as more and more flew in and on to that same copse, it became difficult to imagine how they would all pack themselves in to such a relatively limited space, the total gradually increasing as the minutes passed.


As we accepted that an extreme aerial display was not going to be forthcoming on this occasion, the sound of the birds calling to one another increasingly amplified across the moors, swelling to a climax as if calling the stragglers to hurry on home.


It was time to make our own way homewards, before the light finally went. Retracing our steps, we looked across the rhyne to see a deer leaping through the grasses at the edge of the reed bed. By the time we regained the road, it was nearly dark and it was becoming very cold under the clear sky. We decided to make a stop at the cosy Railway Inn for warming refreshment and to rest our legs before making our way back across the moors, levels and hills for home.

Ham Wall


Today was a gloriously clear day and we decided to go onto the Somerset Levels to look for the starling roost which we had heard can be a spectacular sight at this time of year. We'd not ventured into the nature reserves on the Levels before but were able to find some useful information on the Somerset Wildlife Trust's website.


The roosting takes place at dusk, so we set out at half past three, drove to the other side of the Mendips and through Axbridge, Cheddar and Wedmore to Meare, then turned off to Hay Wall. The levels are reclaimed land, drained by a network of ditches, or rhynes as they are called in these parts. There are a few small, steep hillocks dotting across these flatlands, of which Glastonbury Tor is the most significant.


There are beds of sedge reeds growing out of the water, and the water is dark where it is not reflecting the sky, because of the peaty soil of this area. Trees grow in luscious clumps and one sported a magnificent crop of catkins.


There is a wonderful feeling of space in this area of big skies, and just before sunset the quality of light was wonderful. On this Sunday afternoon there were many other people who had decided to make this visit, and there was an increasing sense of anticipation as we all made our pilgrimage to see te birds come home.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bagging some Stash


Once upon a time, many years ago, I had a small daughter and planned to make her some clothes. I saw a very pretty floral cotton remnant in a fabric shop and knew it would be insufficient for a dress, so found a plain pink poplin to match it. Time passed - many years, in fact. This year I joined the British Quilters List on Yahoo Groups, and commenced the Make a Bag a Month Challenge. Instructions for the January bag received, I went for a look in the stash cupboard(s) and that purchase from long ago seemed a good choice for my project. The result is in the photo above, a sturdy and attractive alternative to the ubiquitous plastic bag. It also folds into its own integral pocket for easy transport in a handbag, pocket or glovebox. I have already received requests from the aforementioned daughter for a bag of her own - we'll see, for I seem to have a bit of a log-jam of projects at the moment, after my New Year enthusiasms and subsequent viral-induced energy slump. At least I can use this to contain any works in progress, as well as for shopping.
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Some Updates

We are still flood-free here, despite more rain, thank goodness. It is extraordinary to think of the chaos caused by the torrential deluge in this locality just over a week ago, and I'm so sorry that folk in other parts of the country have been having a hard time again due to further flooding in Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Yorkshire.

I have managed to keep up with my daily photo blog, and the new theme for my pictures seems to be unseasonal flowers: we have Sweet William and Pot Daisies blooming in the garden at present. I'm keeping my eyes open for the arrival of frog spawn in the pond - it's early yet, often arrives around the time of my Mum's birthday,which is in a fortnight.

Sarah's dissertation is complete, in the hands of the bookbinders and should be ready for collection tomorrow or Friday morning: such a relief!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ancient Wall


Such a higgledy-piggledy wall, but it has stood for many centuries by the Kubba El Baroudyine in Marrakech. Its structure pleases me tremendously.
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Winter Weather


On Friday,Sarah and I ventured out to investigate bookbinders in Bristol and to visit the Central Library, it being dissertation time for her. While we were in the library, it began to snow. We decided to take a break for lunch before making our way to the second bindery, so stopped off at
Zero Degrees for goats cheese salad and a side of fries to share. It was delicious. The precipiation continued, sometimes as snow and sometimes as rain, and sometimes as a mixture.

Our bindery research revealed that one business is a more traditional establishment while the other is interested in less routine projects and does not regard slip boxes as too much bother. I think I know which one she'll commission for the job.

We left Bristol just before four and noticed the pretty dusting of snow on the hills of Ashton Court Park and the surrounding fields. We soon had ample opportunity to peruse our surroundings as the traffic ground to a halt on the Long Ashton bypass. We slowly inched homewards for the next hour and a bit, while hearing about delays on the roads caused by the weather, but it was difficult to grasp just what was going on. As we reached the end of the dual carriageway a couple of miles and probably 70 minutes later, we espied a large lake of water in the underpass below us and a lone policeman stopping all cars. It was hard to see what was happening and we were surprised to be told to do a u-turn and go back the way we had come, as the road ahead was closed. It became clear that the traffic we had seen travelling in the opposite direction had been similarly directed, and we commenced a stop-start crawl in the opposite direction, while the queue the other way stretched beyond our vision.

I began to feel quite panicky: the policeman had been unable to say whether we would be able to reach our village or which way we should go, and meanwhile we were getting nowhere fast in a gridlock situaton. We passed a BBC Radio Bristol car in the layby and moments later heard him broadcasting an update on what was happening, except that his information was incomplete and he thought the road was closed in one direction but that traffic was getting through the other way. Were we totally cut off from home? Which alternative route to try?

Eventually we reached the next exit and wove our way through a village and back roads to Nailsea and onwards back to the A370 without incident, and eventually arrived home more than two and a half hours after we had started the journey, which would normally take 20-30 minutes. I was so glad to reach home! So were my younger two: the school bus could not get through and they were stranded until their Dad was able to collect them.

However, the stress was not yet over. Sarah and I had been invited to a friend's home in the village for a "girls' night in" and, much as I fancied crawling into my bed as I was exhausted, we went along. However, it transpired that our river was on Flood Alert for the high tide at 9pm, and two of the girls live in the area at highest risk of flooding. They were alarmed that the Millenium Green, on the riverside, was flooded, although as one of the menfolk was reported as saying, that meant it was doing its job as flood plain and part of the flood defences.

Eventually, worry got the better of them and they went home to move valuables upstairs and to cover air bricks and so forth. For the rest of the evening, we kept looking out of the window to see if there was water lapping round the cars outside, but in the event, all was well.

On Saturday, I went back to Long Ashton for the monthly meeting of the Avon Guild of Spinners,Weavers and Dyers. It was interesting to see how quickly the flooding had resolved: apart from two driveways dammed with sandbags, a lot of puddles and one lane apparently resurfaced in brown earth, there was nothing to show for the drama of the previous day.

However, further very heavy rainfall is forecast for tomorrow. Action replay? Certainly the ground is still sodden, so if there is another heavy deluge then run-off flooding in the area is very likely. Seems like a good day for things domestic and creative and not stepping foot over the doorstep. Luckily, this house is on relatively high ground, so we are in no immediate danger, but it's a worry for the community. Ironically, my copy of a pertinent book arrived on Friday, so maybe I'll curl up on the sofa with it and my knitting, if I can find it. Anyone seen a little purple bag containing a little purple sock knitting - it's gone AWOL?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shutter Arabesque


This carved wooden shutter in Marrakesh is a good example of the hidden gems in the city and the wonderful colour of the walls in the medina.
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Monday, January 07, 2008

Bird in the Courtyard


This little bird was a frequent visitor to the courtyard of our riad, chirruping cheerfully and hoovering up the crumbs from breakfast from the tiled floor.


Rashida, our housekeeper, apologised for the dawn chorus provided by the birds, who liked to roost in the trees and shrubs growing in the shelter of the courtyard walls, beside the pool and fountain. I am used to birdsong at home and enjoy it: as I said to her, it gives me pleasure.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Picture Playtime


I have joined some friends in a photography project by setting up picture-a-day blogs to run through this year, and mine is called
Picture My World. I decided it would be appropriate on Twelfth Night/Epiphany to take some pictures of the Christmas tree before we dismantle it, and took the opportunity to explore some of the functions of our camera at the same time. I set the ISO to 50 (so slow), disabled the flash, and set it to the fireworks mode. By moving the camera during the long exposure, I could get some interesting trail effects: the lights flash, hence the beaded appearance. Then I collaged four of the photos on Picasa and the above was the result. Great fun!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Filthy Sky


This is what confronted me as I took the peelings to the compost heap today. I was not at all surprised that it started to rain moments later. We have had heavy showers here all afternoon, and what is supposed to be a lawn in the garden is more of a quagmire. I want some sunshine!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Meanwhile, back in Marrakesh

Moroccan style incorporates a vast amount of geometric ornamentation, usually on the interiors of buildings, or at the doorways of important public ones. I greatly admired this work and felt privileged to watch a mastercraftsman creating plaques in his studio, just around the corner from our riad, towards the Musee de Marrakesh. I was too in awe to ask his permission to photograph him at work, and would have loved to bring home an example of his work but was discouraged from doing so by my beloved, who reminded me of what overfilled chaos is our current decor. Maybe the promise of a place to put a plaque in the future will fuel the drive for a calmer, more restful, tidier and less cluttered home? Pigs may fly......

Anyway, I'm a last-minute participant in Sharon B's
Take it Further Challenge and, as I thought about who and what I admire, this wonderful artisan came to mind. So did my lovely textile art mentor, Christine Benson, who has advised me to relate as much of my work as possible to the inspiration my trip gave me. So, my field of reference is determined and I can swap my thinking cap for my taking it forward one.
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First Knitting in 2008

Bayerische Socks

I cast on to knit Eunny Jang's pattern for
Bayerische Socks on 1st January, but unfortunately set up the pattern with irretrievable errors, so undid it all the next day. Yesterday I cast on again, and it seems to be going right this time around. I'm knitting in Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock Wool from Get Knitted in a "solid" (slightly variegated) purply mauvey shade which has been stashed for this purpose for over a year. Hopefully progress will now all be onwards and satisfactory.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Sunset at the Lakes

Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!


How many people know that North Somerset has its own Lake District? The lakes are visible on the UK weather map and are properly water reservoirs. Blagdon Lake is also stocked for fishing, while Chew Lake is a wildlife reserve. We had a family lunch out at the wonderful Bear and Swan in Chew Magna yesterday, which I would recommend for its delicious food and excellent service in an attractive setting, and then went on to drive home through the Lakes. We stopped briefly in the chilly lay-by at the end of Chew Lake to wish the water fowl a Happy New Year before driving through the twilight to the warmth of home