Tuesday, 4 November 2014

My cup runneth over ....

My four 'inside case' creations currently for sale at
The Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, West Yorkshire (read on)
It’s strange is it not how one returns to childhood as one grows older? Or at least, phrases that were once part of one’s schooldays suddenly jump into the mind. My post title is a quotation from the Hebrew Bible[1] (Psalm 23:5) and it literally popped onto the page.  Well, I have twisted its meaning somewhat; but, truly, so much relating to my new direction in life seems to be coming together for me without any input or intervention on my part. 

Oe section of this poor attempt at a sketch book page was created each day
over the first week of my mastectomy operation.

I have not in fact posted since late July when I was awaiting my first ‘eradicate cancer’ operation. I thought I would have all the time in the world to create as I recovered, and yet, it has been a fight to fit in all the hospital appointments, husband-care (he’s so frail now), and the day-to-day routine of staying alive. Health issues are very boring, though I have started turning my experiences into a paper-and-textile illustrated and stitched diary (and have been posting almost daily in Facebook), so I can only assume that the good things that are happening unannounced must mean that I have been busier than I think!

A wall of CD cases filled with ingenious art (including my four!) at
The Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, West Yorkshire until 31-01.2015
copyright Water Street Gallery)

An Inside Job: Right now, I am participating in ‘inside case’ - having been invited back to The Water Street Gallery, Todmorden, West Yorkshire. This is part of their winter exhibition open every day between now and 31st January 2015). This was an intriguing remit: artworks had to fit within a blank CD case and had to measure exactly 13.8 x 11.8 cm so that the closed case could be displayed vertically or horizontally. Instructions to artists were to “get inventive and creative in any media (3D, found objects, painting, encaustic, collage, original prints, photography, fibre art, text and words, defacing / restructuring objects”. Invited artists could submit up to ten pieces. I knew I could not manage more than four, and played safe with techniques I had already perfected (apart from one). My four pieces are illustrated at the top of the page. Below is the first of the finished submitted pieces (all of which are for sale).

First attempt at stitching a real leaf
Experiment first: Many people ask how I create the sort of pieces for which I have become known so I determined to provide a few details. First of course come ideas! Then sketchbook thoughts on how I will interpret what I will do. I gather together physical components that will be needed. Always some base fabric such as calico (though in this instance I used ‘Osnaburg’ fabric from Empress Mills, as it is slightly more textured and the process I use often results in a canvas-effect finish. You’ll need fusible web (Bondaweb) as well. Also used for all the pieces were digital images, auditioned from my own photo library - printed onto Daler-Rowney 45gsm (31lb) Layout Paper - I buy A4 pads online (numerous sources) and print on an Epson WF-2540 Series inkjet printer. The beauty of this printer is that it uses ink which becomes waterproof when dry - perfect if you want to glaze with acrylic wax or gel medium (though not used  for this piece) but matte gel medium was used to affix the leaf. 

One of my 'inside case' pieces - Renaissance, not as simple as it may seem

‘Renaissance’: Once I have attempted various mock-ups, I manipulate digital prints (usually adapting the size constraints which allows for plenty of artistic licence); and add titles in Photoshop. I write - and then type - words often written especially to fit a particularly piece, sometimes digitally tinting the text-box. This piece also incorporated a freshly pressed leaf (as this was to be stitched, I did the trial already shown using a similar leaf to check that the needle would not rip the leaf - I didn’t like the result, though it was fine along the edge).  Assembly comprised fusing the printed photo to the base fabric, fusing into place the word panel and stitching it, then applying the leaf using Golden Fluid Matte Medium. The piece was created slightly oversize so it could be trimmed before stitching the edge. It fitted perfectly! Off to The Water Street Gallery went 'Renaissance' - described thus: “Rebirth; a bare tree bereft of leaves. To some dull; but look at what is revealed, and think on what is to come. I spend much of the Winter photographing woodland as well as individual trees, which prompt many of my word-whispers, and fuel my collages. And as Spring returns, place your hand upon upstanding branches and feel the sap rise. Life-changing.” I will reveal the different processes used for the other three ‘inside case’ pieces in another post, for they utilise other techniques and materials. If you are interested, do please keep visiting, and share my blog details if you wish.

Working on one of my zig-zag books using various materials and techniques:
 probably the most complicated of all the type of pieces I create.

Moments of Serendipity: When my husband (RQ) and I ‘retired’ from running our own magazine publishing and printing company 15 years ago (in 1999), I planned to go freelance; creativity did not at first enter into the equation. My work load grew as I wrote for gardening and travel magazines (eventually working online as well as in print), but of my three interlinked genres, I always regarded my sketching, stitching and textile ‘stuff’ as pure play. But gradually, they wormed their way in, and now - whether I am travelling or visiting gardens (or working in my own) - it is stitched paper and textiles that feature more often than not.

Two pages from one of my nature/travel zig-zag journals and probably the
first I ever created using antique maps as a background (they now
feature regularly in what I do). I think this dates from 2010 but I could be wrong.

I have no formal art-training, but professionally handling marketing campaigns and leaflet creation for outside organisations, plus endless reading and amateur experimentation over the last ten years, helped me to develop a style of my own. Editors for whom I worked seemed willing to include references and images in the non-craft magazines and blogs for which I wrote every month. My blogs helped to bring me to a wider audience, as of late have Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Requests to write in the SEW Region on-line magazine (of the Embroiderers’ Guild) followed, and I have just found they have mentioned my work on their new Facebook page.  Qualifying as a teacher in 1957, I have run workshops for both children and adults, and have been invited to do more in 2015, whilst invitations to exhibit what I make proliferate. Serendipity indeed. It’s been a long and hard journey - and it hasn’t ended yet!


  1. I love it. Love the picture with the hands . It speaks for it self.

  2. A fascinating post Ann. I love your work and especially your sketchbooks. Your journal page is delightfully personal and has a lovely spontaneous feel to it.