Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Processions Project - Week 8

The group have worked really well together and as I have said previously, there has been an ebb and flow of people.

Since the last session I have machined all the flowers on and started to attach the backing fabric which has to be black.  I used a sheet as it was the cheaper option.  It was hard work battling with such a large piece of fabric under a domestic sewing machine but I made it more manageable by only doing about an hour and a half  in one sitting.  I think it took me about 5 hours in total. Phew, but I was so relieved that we were a stage further on and that the group would have something to do.

There were a few things that needed finishing off. Firstly we had to allow time for one unfinished handstitched flower to be completed.  Whilst we waited the group naturally and organically split into two.

One group started to stitch buttons onto the Suffolk puffs to hold the two layers together and the second group finished off the last of the rosettes.  In-between time, I had to nab the banner to finish off overlocking around the edge once the last flower had been stitched on.  Then Lillian and I discussed the tab situation, once the size was decided upon I left her to it.

Moving around the round there was a nice level of chatter, discussing various topics, one of which was our plans for the march in London on the 10th June.  Who was taking what, backpack, hats, rain macs etc.  When you get a group of women in one room with single minded purpose that's what happens. They were thinking of the less able, where we would be meeting. My suggestion was about taking something with you to do on the journey there, in my case it was tatting.  I think the journey back might be a gentle snooze.

The actual march or procession will be two and half miles, which for some people will be quite a distance.

Once everything was stitched in place and only fifteen minutes to go. the lovely Lillian, who has kept Carole and I in check and been a fabulous support during the later sessions (along with Kate and Mary) started pinning on the lilac and silver border, placing the tabs at the top.  This enabled us to have a well deserved photo together for prosperity (which I will have to add into this post when I receive it, but after the march has taken place as requested by Made in Corby).  I had asked Kate from Corby Community Arts if she minded bring her tripod for her camera (put it on self timer) so she could be I'm the photo as well.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Workshop Treat: Learning how to screen print using stencils

When I was at University one of my tutors basically told be to stay away from print.  I was very messy and didn't grasp the concept of what was involved in the process.  At the time I found the whole process very long with minimal results.  For example, it takes you so long to prepare a collograph, cutting it out, attaching the pieces to the card, sealing it etc. Then you have a so, so print or in my case many messy prints.

Today I had a go at screen printing, which I didn't do at uni.  It seems on the surface a simple way to produce an image. But no, yet again there was lots of preparation to produce a single image.  This was going to be a two colour print so I learnt about colour separation and also how my stencil would or wouldn't work (that bit I definitely found difficult, I wanted more detail in the ears and was unable to do this because you can't have floaters).

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my day and feel confident that I could do this at home with minimal equipment which is how I like it.  Achievable, yes.  Lots of practice needed, most definitely.

Sarah Holden, the tutor for the day was most encouraging and I did glean a nugget from her. "As you do each print you will learn what not to do next time" (this sounded like I was back at Uni). I remember at the time thinking, that if I knew what I was doing in the first place I would know what not to do.  Despite this I battled on with my inner niggles.

Print for me,  is a back to front technique, always working in the opposite direction from what you expect.  I'm afraid my brain struggles a lot with that.  It's the negative space thing again. I guess if you were doing it all the time it would become second nature.

Printing the first colour was fairly straightforward apart from not flooding the screen enough or putting too much paint when I went across the screen a  second time, and getting paint in places that wasn't supposed to have paint.  That sounded very familiar.

When it came to the second colour, things got a little more technical.  We had to print onto a plastic sheet which would serve as the registration guide to line the two colour prints  up. Again, easier said than done.  It was very fiddly trying to get the two images to line up.  I was just off each time, but I think perhaps an acetate sheet would be better than using a plastic document over, it was way too flimsy and moved about too much when you were trying to line things up.

Anyway, here's my most successful print that just happened to be on calico fabric, which I use a lot in my work.  It's supposed to be my poodle, Lola.  A little thin in the face perhaps but I'm happy.  I will definitely be investing in the basic equipment to make up a few screens for printing and explore this further.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Seeing the Wood for the Trees - Spring Theme - week one

How time flies, it was only about 6 weeks ago when the group were exploring the theme of Winter.  And although Spring is here it doesn't seem that way.  We seem to be on a slow starter this year.  That being said I was determined to bring a splash of colour to this week's session.

It was my turn to provide a new technique for the group and I decided to let them explore creating backgrounds for their work. As is usual for me I brought along a few examples in different stages of being.

Whilst Carole went off and made the tea and coffee and lay out the nibbles I introduced the group the techniques and materials they would be exploring.

All paper ready cut, to get them started, I asked them to paint one side with Gesso and to attach text paper over the other side.  Thus allowing a stable foundation for them to work with, paints, ink sprays, sponges, stencils and a variety of mark making tools.

Here are some of the results:-

Lace Tatting Workshop at Leicestershire Craft Centre

I love sharing my skills at workshops and it's lovely to see how people progress during a three hour workshop.  And this time was no exception.

It was lovely to have a mix of adults and teenagers. It shows both generations that a new skill can be challenging whatever your age is. However, the challenge for me was that I had 2 left handed people in the group.

As the time moved on there was evidence of progress appearing on the table and delighted faces.  I find that teaching with chinese silk cord makes it easier for people to understand how the flip works which is one of the key techniques for being able to produce tatting.

At the end of the three hour session I received some lovely feedback and the group have decided that they would like to meet on a regular basis to improve their skills, which I hope I am able to do.  One lady had brought with her her grandmother's tatting shuttles and some beautiful examples of what tatting can be. She shared that her grandmother had taught her how to tat when she was a teenager but she didn't really take much notice at the time, now she wished she had.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Lace UnArchived

From having a tatting shuttle in my sewing box for over 30 years, I decided not long after I graduated I would try and learn how to do this heritage craft.  The problem was finding someone to teach me.  I even joined a group called, "The Ring of Tatters", but never quite managed to link with anyone to get me started.  I eventually taught myself with the aid of lots of reading, a short DVD tutorial and plenty of You Tube watching until I got my skills up to an acceptable level.

I have to say I am still learning different techniques and ways a creating the lace I want to create but all in all I find tatting a delightful and relaxing craft.

Lace illustrating Russia and the Red Square - William Pegg

Recently I spotted that there was to be a series of events to celebrate Nottingham Lace, one of which was the Lace Unarchived exhibition at Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University.  It's an exhibition of traditional and contemporary work from past students, modern designers and archived samples.  I think my favourite piece was created by a 1930's famous lace maker and designer called William Hallam Pegg in which he expressed his socialist beliefs.

In light of this contemporary piece I was left with the question, "So what is lace?" What defines a piece of lace.  The dictionary definition gives the following:-

...a fine open fabric of cotton or silk, made by looping, twisting, or knitting thread in patterns and used especially for trimming garments.  Oxford Dictionaries

...lace is a very delicate cloth which is made with a lot of holes in it.  It is made by twisting together very fine threads of cotton to form patterns. Collins Dictionaries

Anyway, I will leave you with this video I found about the exhibition, it may inspire you to pay a visit.

As tatting has holes, uses loops, twisting, has lots of holes and creates patterns I will continue to create lace using this very old craft.

My next lace adventure will be a one day Lace Symposium at Newstead Abbey, which is the former home of Lord Byron which I am thoroughly looking forward to.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Seeing the Wood for the Trees - Winter Theme - Week Three

During this session the group used a portable printing press to produce a series of prints using the collograph plates they had prepared from the last couple of sessions.

Following a demonstration by Carole, we (yes, me included) inked up our plates then wiped them down removing as much ink as we could but leaving enough so that there would be an impression on the paper at printing time.

This isn't as easy as it looks, although there were some in the group that took to it like a ducks to water. "You just add some colour and wipe it off", came one comment. Mmm my colour sort of squigged together and there didn't seem to be any definition apart from purple.

Once the ink had been applied then rubbed back the time came to lay out the plates on the press. It was here that a little thought was need to the layout as these prints would serve to be pages in our Winter themed books.

Next came the rolling of the printing press.  We were taught to do a number of runs through the press, the first being too heavy on the ink, the subsequent ones being lighter but more successful in showing the lines and marks that had been added in the first two weeks of preparation.

Here's just one of the prints that was created.  If you would like to see more from the session please visit here.  And whilst all this printerly activity was going on, Phiona was in and out of the kitchen making cups of tea and coffee to keep us replenished. This was balanced with a range of snacks organised by Carole.

A job well done, by everyone I think.  Next week they'll be taking their prints along with other ideas and making them into books.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Chinese New Year celebrations at Leicester University

What a fab day this was and I was so pleased to be part of it even though it was hard work.

I was commissioned by Leicester University Student Centre to create a workshop for 50 students.  Initially my idea had been to create lanterns using, "Lucky Red Envelopes".  However, due to the cost involved for the volume of students I had to adapt the idea to use red card with a stencilled image, either a paw print or the word dog in Chinese writing.

As sometimes happens plans for the day changed from 2 x 1½ hour workshop to 1 x 1½ hour workshop.  Somewhere along the way this had also gone from a sit down workshop inside to a Make and Take opportunity outside in the events square.

Thinking cap on, and I decided the only way I could run this smoothly without too many frustrated people was to make up kits with all the things required to make a lantern apart from scissors, sticky tape, stencil and ink pads.

The workshop day finally arrived with preparations all done. When I arrived on campus I was guided to the area I would be working in which consisted of 6 separate tables covered with gazebo's. I had visions of me running up and down the tables maintaining 30 people.  This would never do.  I had two tables moved together to form one long table and then 2 separate tables.  That way there was an area to stencil and an area to assemble the lanterns

Sad to say I missed the dragon dance but please click on the video above to get a feel for the day.  Don't blink though or you'll miss seeing the lantern

Although my time was 1½ hours, I stayed for 2 just to make sure everyone had completely finished.    And it was full on for the entire time I was there I can tell you. All in all it was a lovely experience, with excited chattering, plenty of huge smiles and completed lanterns which says it all to me.

I worked out that every 2 minutes a new person turned up to the table to do some making.  A job well done, don't you think.