Saturday, October 25, 2008

Breast Cancer Awareness

Most of you will know that October is Breast Cancer awareness month.  The internet has revealed  a variety of  ways to contribute to the cause, and several Etsy shops that have made an effort  have been featured here.
I thought I would show you a photograph of our daughter.  She was sponsored to dye her hair pink.  Believe it or not it took four and a half hours to bleach her hair and a further hour to colour it.   Here she is with our grand-daughter.
Sponsorship money is still being collected if you would like to contribute.   I'll let you know the final total when I have it.

I'm teaching in Nottingham for the next few days.  Watch out for the next part of the Collage Tutorial when I come back.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thursday Theme - Hands

Wordless Wednesday

Monday Memory

I have just got back from a quick visit to the doctor's. I had to go for a blood test. It was easy, painless and only took a short while. In fact, it took longer to park the car than anything else. However, it somehow reminded me of medical appointments when I was a child, and going to the dentist.

Was there anyone that wasn't frightened of the dentist? Is it any wonder? Our dentist was only a short walk away. The father of a school friend, I regarded him as a 'safe'. So, when the large needle suddenly appeared at eye level with no explanation I had conflicting feelings. The noise of the drill, the awful smell of the gas mask and then that funny woozy feeling and nothing else until you felt the after pain..... To learn years later that so much of the work that was done by dentists at that time wasn't necessary, but to improve their pay, almost makes the memories worse.....

How different it must have been, though, for my mother. Living in a small village there was no dentist. The nearest was in the next village, but there was no road! Travelling to the dentist involved a walk down a long hill and then a ferry trip across the fast flowing river. Imagine standing in the cold and wet waiting for the ferryman to row across to get you. The prospect of a similar trek on the way home was the culmination of the visit. I always wondered why Mum would never talk to me about the dentist, years later I discovered that she hadn't wanted to 'put me off'. Frankly, the dentist did that all on his own.......

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Day Off

It is very hard for us to book a day off, and to decide on a Saturday for a break requires a lot of forward planning. Yesterday we had a day out with our family that has been eighteen months in the planning! Not only did we need to ensure that we weren't working yesterday, but we thought we would have today off too so that we could properly recover in the glow of a lovely day.

The day started late morning when we drove a mile or two to collect our son and daughter in law. Another couple of miles and we were at the station waiting for the fast train to London. A smooth ride, a picnic while travelling, and forty minutes later we arrived at London Waterloo where our daughter and family were waiting for us. Their journey had been slightly longer, but now there were eight of us about to begin our adventure.

It was a beautiful day, and who needs the underground on a day as lovely as this? We strolled across Waterloo Road and headed in the direction of the Royal Festival Hall. This wasn't our destination, but it would lead us to the bridge that crossed the Thames and on to the north side of the river. We bypassed Villiers Street by walking along the continuation of the bridge (we could see it through the gaps) and finally ended up in The Strand. A short walk brought us to Trafalgar Square.


Here we paused to look at the Street Theatre and other delights on offer


This particular living statue was more imaginative than any of the others around. One young child was a little disturbed by him, so he got off his pedestal and became fully human until the child calmed down, a really lovely touch.

We walked on through streets and alleys that I haven't investigated for a long time. In my student days I walked all over London. I often couldn't afford my underground fare, so I would walk between Waterloo and The Kings Road on many occasions. We had plenty of time so the stroll was leisurely and comfortable. Our appointment was for three o'clock, and we arrived in plenty of time.

Eighteen months ago I managed to book eight seats for 'Mama Mia'. We had had to wait that long for seats together, and today was the day. Yes, I booked them, and I was the one that viewed the whole day with most trepidation! I don't like musicals, and I felt as though I had already had my fill of Abba music some long time ago! Even as we approached the venue I kept these thoughts to myself but trembled inside a little. I needn't have worried....

A quick drink in the bar (it was orange juice, folks)


and it was time to take our seats. Our grand-daughter and I just had time to compare nail varnish and then it was time for curtain-up!


It was great fun. It was also LOUD! We were in the second row, fantastic views, but of course loud to the extreme at times. We laughed, had our heart strings wrenched and sang along when it was appropriate. It really was a thoroughly good show and enjoyed by one and all, including our 16 and 14 year old grandchildren. No photographs of the show as these are understandably forbidden.

And then it was time for dinner. An Italian restaurant recommended by our son was just around the corner, so that was where the table was booked. It was lovely. A long, leisurely family dinner, with plenty of wine.


So now we headed back towards the station for the train. It was dark, but very mild so no need for the underground this time either. We retraced our steps, enjoying the evening, and the company! Pausing briefly on Hungerford Bridge for the last views of the evening.


Just too late the moon emerged from the clouds, but there wasn't time to dash back for another photograph.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Paper Collage Tutorial, Part Two

So, are you ready to have some fun?  Have you collected some papers?  Before you go any further I suggest you choose one of about three different sorts and screw them up.  Yes, screw them up!  Did that feel good?  It soon will.  Prepare your work surface.: Lay out some newspaper and cover it with your piece of polythene.  Find your brush(es) and put some water into your container, you don't want to drench your brush so be frugal.
Choose your colouring media.  I suggest something like diluted dyes, Brusho or coloured inks to begin with.  You can use water colours too, but you must be more heavy handed than usual, you want a good depth of colour.
Start with  a clean sheet of paper and just put some colour on.  This picture shows a piece of the wet strength tissue.  Can you see on the left  how the colour is starting to 'bleed' into the  surrounding area?  I love the way this happens, it makes the transition between colours so much more gentle than on other surfaces.
Add more water to the colour, just a little, and applied with the brush
It will spread and the mismatched strokes become more integrated.  Add other colours and more water until the page is covered
Before leaving it to dry you can take prints from the surface, sometimes two or three, just cover with another sheet (it could be a different sort of paper) and press gently all over with the back of your hand.  Don't worry if these papers aren't fully covered at this stage.
Put them to dry and paint some more.  You can never have enough, you will want plenty to choose from so have fun colouring as many as you have room to dry!  Don't stick to your favourite colours only, mix and match and start to produce a good stock.   Don't forget the crumpled papers too, they will take the colour slightly differently.  When they are dry they can be ironed on the reverse to flatten them.  They will curl initially, but don't worry about this.
Enjoy, and watch out for part three coming soon.

Part one is here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Paper Collage Tutorial, Part One

Landscape Collage 1
Several people have asked how I make my collaged landscapes.  This is the first in a small series of posts explaining the process. 
What is collage?  The dictionary defines it like this:
'An artistic composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface, often with unifying lines and colour.'
I'd like to explain why I do them.  Firstly, they are fun.  Secondly they are relatively easy to do.  Lastly they are an excellent way of playing with and learning about colour.  Importantly, the lessons learnt will apply to other techniques using paint, paper, fabric etc.
The process begins with the paper.  All the papers that I use have been individually hand coloured.  I use a variety of media for this including dyes, watercolour, diluted acrylic paint, crayons and pencils.  I also use a variety of papers, typing, cartridge, various tissues, and magazine pages.  My favourite is a type of wet-strength tissue this is not one of the Tissutex family but another acid free, archival product.  It is not necessary to use this but if you would like some you can obtain it here (there is also a link in the sidebar).  I also use a variety of techniques to colour the paper, but for the purposes of the tutorial we will only use the simplest and quickest technique.  Maybe there will be an opportunity to look at another technique in the future.
You will also need a workstation, a drying area and a few tools.  This does not need to be large or complicated.  It is possible to create many effects using only a small space, and, although not ideal, I sometimes  need to work in a very cramped area.  Gather together a piece of polythene (I use a large bag), a paintbrush and a water container.  I don't use a jam jar, I use a shallow dish (the cover from a filter coffee serving is ideal), this helps to regulate the amount of water as I usually don't want to use too much.  You may also need a knife or scissors to cut or tear the paper into manageable pieces.  Gather these bits and pieces together and have them ready.  In a day or two I will post the next part, actually colouring the paper.  If you have any questions or queries leave a comment and I will try to answer them.

Wet Strength Tissue

Later today or tomorrow I will post the first in a short series of collage tutorials. The paper that I use most often is a special tissue that is acid free and has good 'wet strength. Apart from using it for collage it can also be used for mixed media techniques including textile/fibre art, altered books etc. IT IS NOT TISSUTEX or TISSUTEXPLUS. It is a completely natural product made using plant fibres.

You can purchase some by using either the button below or the one in the sidebar.

W S Tissue

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Memories - Did I tell you I love figs?

It was my brother's 21st birthday. We had all gathered at a big fancy restaurant for dinner. How fancy? Well, I was wearing a long dress and long gloves! It must have been pretty fancy, but my dress would not have disguised the fact that I was pregnant. Apart from ourselves and my brother, my parents, and two uncle and aunts were there, along with a couple of cousins. We had great fun, lots of chatter, lots of wine including champagne (I'm trying to set the scene here!). The dishes were served silently, coming and going with an effortless ease. We didn't really notice the waiters, it was a really special evening.

I have no memory of the first or main course. They must have been good, or I would have remembered them as bad. Finally the dessert menu was presented, and I chose fresh figs. Well......

It now transpired that the Maitre d' was Greek. He suddenly went into ecstasy mode.! The whole restaurant became silent and everyone looked in our direction. 'Madame! Madame! Madame, she want figs! Madame, she want fresh figs! She want FIGS! She is pregnant and she want FIGS! In my country, we know when a lady want figs when she is pregnant, she is expecting a boy. More champagne! She is expecting a boy.' He went on in this vein for some time, the whole restaurant cheered, and we did indeed get a free bottle of champagne. I duly ate my figs and went home.

Three months later I gave birth to our daughter.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Food!

Sometimes we need food for the soul, and also for the spirit.  This week I have been indulging in delicious food, so having had my fill I'm going to tell you how I have been otherwise 'fed' this week!  Sorry if you were expecting a recipe.....

How can you fail to be inspired when you take a course set in scenery as beautiful and serene as this?

West Dean College is part of the Edward James Foundation, and is set in the midst of this beautiful countryside.  I have taken several courses here, but this week I was able to attend one that I have wanted to do for a number of years.
I was first introduced to Cas Holmes several years ago when she gave a day workshop to my exhibiting group, 'Mixed Media Group'.  She introduced a new way of looking at textiles, and when I had the opportunity and the free time to attend a longer course I was delighted.  West Dean College is full of beautiful artefacts etc, and is a delight to attend.  (Yes, the food is good too!)
We began by taking  a piece of fabric and stitching into it.  This is actually quite scary when you don't know what you will be doing!  After that we produced interesting surfaces by monoprinting, overpriniting, painting and tinting.  We used fabrics and papers, often being presented with little 'gifts' by the tutor which we had to incorporate, and searched out leaves, twigs and branches from the grounds to use as prinitng tools.  Carving our own stamps was also part of the course, but I have done this before and had some of my own with me.    Everyone had produced a vast selection of prints and patterns.  Some had been overprinted, and distorted in a number of ways, all were interesting and many a total surprise. 
Next we  pieced and patched (not traditionally).  Somehow that  previously stitched piece fitted in exactly!  Later each piece was looked at again, partly taken apart, reformed, repieced, unpatched....!!!!  It was great fun, and everyone produced exciting surfaces.  The first full day sped by, and at 10pm we left the workshop tired but happy!
Stitching began in earnest after breakfast.  It was exciting to see the surfaces change again.  The truly exciting thing about Cas's technique is that it is very easy to deconstruct the surface.  This means that you can constantly add and take away as you feel the need.  This first one I completed  was slashed into three, and now I know an easy way to find out if it will work before actually taking the scissors to it, but as that is the tutor's technique I don't think it would be fair to describe it here.
The printed background fabric was one of the pieces given to me by the tutor, and I have to admit that I had no idea how I was going to use it as it didn't seem to be in the same vein as my printed surfaces, however, it was perfect for this piece, and the lines of monoprinting fitted exactly to the curves of the constructed landscape.
The second finished piece went through several different stages.  It incorporates that piece of stitching that was done first!  It was also partly deconstructed and added to another pre-formed section.  This is the result.
I have one more piece on which I am still working, but you will have to wait to see that!  Finally, and just for good measure, here is the view from my bedroom window.
I even found the rooftops inspiring!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Monday Memory, Or the Tale of a Pig

This is a true story.

Once upon a time there was a pig. We will call him Monty.

Monty lived on a farm, and, although he was well cared for, he sometimes got lonely because his only companions were cows and turkeys. Sometimes Monty would go for a walk in the hope that he would find another pig to talk to, but the farmer always found him before he had time to get very far.

One sunny day Monty shook the pigsty door until it opened. Walking across the farmyard he pushed yet another hole through the hedge and began to walk along the lane. He was big and fat, so he walked slowly, sniffing the air for interesting smells, especially as his eyesight was poor. He could see a shadow ahead, and as he approached he could tell that it smelt interesting.

It was a car with the boot up, but Monty didn't recognise it as such, to him it smelt like a food trough, for languishing in the boot was a large sack of horse feed. Monty didn't know that the feed was only meant for horses, he thought it had been put there just for him, so with an enormous amount of effort he pulled himself into the boot and began to devour the feed, packaging and all. It was delicious, and he was really surprised when suddenly there was much commotion and the farmer arrived with a very irate man who demanded compensation! Without ceremony Monty was returned to the lonely pigsty.

Holes in the hedge were reinforced and an extra strong bolt was put on the pigsty door. Monty was fed more than usual, but that was no problem, he could always find space for another morsel. But one day he began to feel lonely again, and he knew what he had to do.... With enormous effort he pulled himself over the door of the pigsty. He fell with a bump, but although a little sore he walked towards the hedge. He felt a little like an Olympic pole vaulter, he felt that he had set a record for pigs, the hedge would be easy, in spite of reinforcements.

He began to walk along the lane. The sun was shining, and that shape was there again. Monty sniffed the air. Sure enough, it was waiting with food for him. However, when he got there he discovered that the food was covered up! (The boot was closed). Now what to do? The more he sniffed the air the more he wanted the food. How could he get to it? Monty was a resourceful pig, he walked around the car sniffing as he went. As he got to the driver's door the smell intensified. Hooray, someone had thoughtfully left the driver's window open. Here was a way in.

Getting through the window was not easy, but having done so Monty was in heaven. On the back seat was a sack of horse feed, exactly the same as the one he had eaten before! Such delight! He chomped his way through it. It was delicious! (Isn't forbidden food ALWAYS the sweetest?). When finished he sat for a moment to make sure that nothing was left, the smell of food was still strong, although nowhere in sight. Yes, he could still smell something, and then he realised that the smell was coming from behind the seat. Sure enough, there was another sack in the car boot, but how could he get to that?

The pig who had scaled the pigsty door, pushed through reinforced hedge AND climbed in through a car window knew no limitations. It wasn't very tasty, but Monty now began to tug and tear at the back of the seat, and before long he had access to the rest of the food. Once he had his head far enough through to eat he stopped pushing and just ate. He thought he was in heaven before, but this must be it, because there were two sacks waiting for him. Delicious!

When he had finished, however, Monty began to panic. He was now firmly wedged with his head and shoulders stuck through the back seat and his rear end jammed up against the back of the front seats. He couldn't move... How was he going to get out? He began to twist from side to side in the hope that he could free himself, but this only served to make the car rock, and this rocking drew the attention of a passing postman.

Car owner and farmer were duly summoned. More compensation was demanded, Monty heard the words, but didn't know what they meant. What had he done wrong? The farmer bundled Monty into a trailer and off they went. Regrettably, not to the pigsty.....

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Friday Food

Chocolate Upside Down Cake

Prepare as follows:

Part 1

Mix together in a bowl:

1 tablespoon of cocoa

Scant 2 ozs (50g) chopped nuts (I use freshly chopped walnuts, but any nuts or nut mix will do)

Scant 1 oz (20g) Demerara sugar.

Part 2

Boil the kettle ready for Part 3. While it is boiling:

Heat the oven to 350 deg F (180 deg C)

Mix well together in another bowl the following ingredients:

4 ozs (125 g) soft margarine

4 ozs (125 g) sugar

2 eggs

4 ozs (125g) Self Raising (All Purpose) Flour

1 rounded tablespoon cocoa.

Part 3

Make up half a pint (0.3 L) of STRONG coffee (use approx 3 teaspoonsful if using instant) and 20g (scant 1 oz) sugar. Stir well.

Part 4 - Trust me!

Grease a 2 pint (1.5L) pudding bowl.

Add the well mixed Part 2

Sprinkle Part 1 on top.

Finally, and as quickly as possible, pour the coffee mix of Part 3 on top. Pop it into the oven before you have time to panic that you have done it wrongly and wait for 50 minutes before you are tempted to open the door.....

When it is cooked - turn it out onto a serving plate and serve hot or warm with either vanilla icecream or cream


PS  For those of you that have asked about Demerara sugar there is a listing on Wikipedia, or you can read about it HERE

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thursday Theme - Tiny

I'm not sure if this counts as tiny! It was however very small! It was a very cold damp day and if the spider had any sense it had gone for tea in front of the fire with its mother! It was nowhere in evidence. These threads were so fine they were almost invisible.

Wordless Wednesday