Thursday, 29 December 2011

Back to work

Much as I love Christmas it does seem to go on a bit doesn't it? I love to see all the family and I really enjoy feeding anyone who drops by but I'm always happiest when the mince pies and Christmas cake disappear and life returns to normal. The coffee table is still groaning with irresistible chocolates I'm sorry to confess but today we have a temporary lull in the festivities and I can escape the kitchen for a bit. I am back in my workroom reorganising everything with a vengeance. The promise of a New Year always has a rejuvenating effect on me and I am in the mood to finish any projects that have been lurking somewhere in a heap!!

Does anyone remember seeing the beginnings of this little appliqued Tulip panel? I made it with the leftovers from a DMTV project. After adding fly stitch embroidery to the vase I've worked a combination of hand quilting, using a Madeira cotton thread, with free motion machine quilting using Madeira rayon machine embroidery thread. The fly stitch, seed stitch and french knots were worked with Madeira Lana - one of my absolute favourites!

I can't imagine life without my Husqvarna sewing machines but I also enjoy having some hand stitching in the evenings when I am half watching TV. The hand stitch adds a different texture to the surface don't you think? Last night the BBC's Great Expectations held my full attention but I was able to add a colourful binding to connect the colours of the applique to the edge of the quilt and this morning I chose a wooden mini frame as a perfect way to display a little quilt like this. We have the frames hand made here in the heart of the country and you may have seen them before in our online store but you won't have seen one quite like this! I had thought I'd use one with a natural looking wax finish but being the control freak that I am decided get a plain one and paint it myself. I used Jacquard Lumiere in violet halo gold and I think it coordinates pretty well with the hand dyed fabrics of the flowers and the binding.

Out in my garden studio I keep all my hand dyed fabrics in large plastic crates but as I rummage through to try and find specific colours they get really messy,  That's what I'm aiming to tackle this afternoon. What fun! Imagine me with all the contents of the crates tipped out on the floor - I shall no doubt be sidetracked by all sorts of stuff I had forgotten I had - this may well take a while! Of course there can be no photographic evidence of this chaos - you'd be far too shocked!

Happy New Year to everyone who visits my blog, I do appreciate it. I hope you're all feeling positive about 2012 being your creative best!
Talk to you next year! Linda

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas one and all!

Our very good friends at Madeira sent us a parcel this week. It's been a busy few weeks and Laura and I were feeling in need of a treat. Being our usual impatient selves we couldn't wait to see what was inside. It didn't look like the usual box of lovely sewing threads so, intrigued, the ribbons and gift wrap had to come off immediately! Our grasp of German is pathetically inadequate but we managed to understand the packaging enough to know it was edible -  needless to say, this lovely Kirsch cake didn't last long! Thank you Madeira - it was delicious!

We have really appreciated all the goodwill messages and cards we've been sent from friends, students and DMTV subscribers - thank you one and all. We couldn't do what we do without you!

Hope your Christmas is peaceful and that you'll be back refreshed and reinvigorated in 2012 for a wonderfully creative New Year.

All the best for now - Linda

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mother's on her soapbox again!

Today is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth. I may not aspire to be a modern day Dickens but I do have a Christmas tale to tell. When I was a little girl in the early fifties we didn’t have much money for fancy toys. We weren’t exactly the Cratchit family but there weren’t many luxuries. Instead we made things! We could have hours of pleasure with a pair of scissors and an old shopping catalogue, cutting out all the pretty clothes. Maybe my love of collage was born all those years ago? Sometimes when we needed entertaining my ever resourceful mother would cook a paste of flour and water on the stove to make glue and we would tear up old newspapers for papier mache. We’d paste the little squares of paper over a balloon to make a mask. Maybe distance lends enchantment but I remember those masks as being magical. Much better than anything you could buy from a shop. When the papier mache was dry we burst the balloon to release the mask, cut out holes for eyes and mouth and painted it with poster paint. Funny thing is I used much the same technique many years later when I did a City & Guilds’ course in Papercraft. Some things once learnt are never forgotten. This is one of the plates I made with a paper pulp technique.  

I graduated from poster paint to gorgeous acrylic inks and used them with abandon! 

When paint wants to run I just let it!
I really believe there is no greater satisfaction than to produce something beautiful with your own hands. All the better if that something is conjured from almost nothing! It’s the best therapy in the world.

This huge paper bowl is difficult to photograph - it was moulded over a giant lampshade.

And when there isn't enough pulp left to make a bowl you can use the last bits on scallop shells!

I realise I sound like one of those doddery old curmudgeons who witter on about the good old days and I don’t mean to. I am as enamoured of the high tech world we all live in as anyone else but the moral to this tale I suppose is that if we don’t continue to be creative with our hands and if we don’t share that magic, where will the next generation of artists come from? I am thankful to my mother for passing on her 'can do' attitude and her remarkable talents.
Lecture over - the soapbox is back in its corner and I'm off to make something lovely!

Thanks for reading this - Linda

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Must be nearly time

Christmas seems to have crept up on me again this year. I have been in denial but the time has come to give in and get into the right spirit.

I spent part of this afternoon decorating the tree. My family will laugh at this but every year I start out with good intentions to keep it tasteful. I will only hang colour coordinating baubles! Then of course I give in and every hand made ornament we've had in the family since the year dot gets squashed on too. Some of these we made when the children were tiny but they still come out year after year.

Once I'm in 'hostess with the mostess' mode there's no stopping me - here's the first batch of sesame bread rolls.

They looked so good we had to sample a few and then of course I had to make more. This time with poppy seeds on top. The freezer is full - we should be OK for Boxing Day turkey, stuffing and pickle sandwiches now!

Just in case you think I'm in already holiday mode and I've forgotten where my studio is, here's a couple of ideas we are working on as designs for the new printer. That's the beauty of having spent more than a year writing our latest Creative Sketchbook course - we have lots of lovely pages just waiting to be developed.

Who could resist a fat quarter of this? It's a collage with print and watercolour wash.

Here's a rather decorative pear print with pencil drawn detail. I know I shouldn't say it but they are gorgeous aren't they? They are both Laura's work so I'm allowed to praise them!

Hope your Christmas plans are going well and you aren't getting stressed. Talk again soon - Linda

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Better pictures

I don't usually post so often but I was worried yesterday's photos were blurry because I took them indoors at night. Hopefully these might be a bit better and will show you what Laura's busying herself with this week.

The Poppy Seedheads on the left are printed on cotton and the ones on the right are on silk chiffon.

Remember the Iris I appliqued for DMTV recently? Here's the quilt again on the right and a small detail of it much enlarged and printed on silk chiffon laid out on the left. It may only be a try out but it's so gorgeous I think I'll wear it as a scarf!

Talk again soon, Linda

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Such excitement!

I might have mentioned before (OK probably mentioned it more than once - we are excited!) that Laura is starting a new printing venture. Well the wide format printer arrived yesterday and it is a monster! After 2 intensive days of training I don't suppose we can say she and Jamie are experts yet but they're getting there! This afternoon I went to the new printroom and we tried a few of my images onto fabric.

You might recognise this Rook - he's an acrylic painting I did on canvas printed out more than life size onto a cotton fabric. The detail is astonishing! I took the pictures when I got home and it's late afternoon in December so the light isn't great.

The painted feathers from the sketchbook might work well as a coordinating fabric in a quilted panel don't you think? This is the printed fabric by the way, not the book!

And of course you can cut and paste an image to make a backing fabric too. Actually I couldn't bear to hide this on the back - it's too gorgeous!

These are a couple of pages from the sketchbook I made last year for the Sketchbook Project. The book now resides in America so it's good to have a permanent reminder on cloth. I plan to quilt these and maybe work into them again to accent details with paint.

Look how the fabric print is true to every fluid mark in the watercolour paint. That's impossible to achieve with paint direct to fabric but easy if you print from a painted paper image.

I hope Laura will turn up for work tomorrow but I suspect it will be quite a wrench to leave her new toy!

Thanks for reading this. I'll be in touch with the latest developments as they happen! Linda

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Seeking inspiration

I'm trying to get my head around our Oriental inspiration for one of next year's exhibitions. Having a theme is supposed to make things easier but sometimes when it is a subject you would probably never have chosen yourself it takes a while to get to grips with it. You have to start somewhere of course so today I thought I'd see what I have around the house to discover if I had anything vaguely oriental that might have design potential.

These fortune cookie wrappers might fit the bill even if I have no idea what they say! They've been lurking in my stash of interesting papers for far too long - it's time they earned their keep.

The colours are really gaudy so I've laminated a few of the wrappers between very thin layers of paper pulp. The one above is still wet so don't be mislead by the colour . The sheet is so fine you can still see the blue J Cloth through the pulp. It will dry paler and I'm hoping when it's dry it will be delicate and subtle because I'll probably want to stitch it and I can't bear sewing through thick paper! I'm thinking I might wax some of these when they're dry too - that will make them translucent and allow the gleam of the gold to show a bit more.

This little Chinese fellow has been with me for a long time. I used to burn incense sticks in that pot when I was younger. Looking at him now I think I may not have dusted him as often as I might have.

This figure was given to me by my mother many years ago.

I wonder what the characters on his costume mean? They're very ornamental though aren't they? Might have to carve another print block!

I'll let you know how the paper lamination turns out soon. In the meantime if you want to see more of the oriental inspiration I found please take a look at SiX and Friends blog. I'll post there later today.

Talk to you soon - Linda

Monday, 28 November 2011

Oh for a quiet life

It's been an interesting few days chez Kemshall. I hate to bore anyone with something so trivial but we are having the central heating boiler replaced for a newer more efficient and environmentally friendly system. Two days work would start last Wednesday. Men arrived Thursday - only a day late, could be worse. More men arrived Friday and all was going swimmingly until someone who shall be nameless drilled through the hot water pipe in the bathroom. I have no idea how much water a hot water tank holds but it certainly looks like a lot when it's cascading through your kitchen ceiling! No one works weekends apparently so we had a less than cosy weekend with no heating, no washing machine, no shower and most of the house in total disarray. Today more men arrived. They must have drawn lots to see who would break the news to us that the wrong boiler had been fitted on Friday.  It would have to be replaced today oh, and by the way, that means the pipes are all in the wrong place too! I'm trying hard not to cry or scream.

Luckily the postman just delivered my new gouache paints and indian ink so it's not all bad news!

The flock on the studio wall is growing and now I have the paints there will be more!

The only way to keep sane at the moment is to be  busy. I am embroidering the little pot that holds the applique tulips using Madeira Lana, a wool and acrylic blended thread that I love.

And stippling the background fabric to create ripples of texture with a Kantha like stitch. I shall machine quilt the flowers to follow the marks in the hand dyed fabric and the pencil drawing.

Laura's had to dye more of these gorgeous fabrics to put in the store since people saw me use them on DMTV!

They tell me it will all be sorted one day, they just won't say when that might be! In the meantime I shall bury myself in my work and pretend it isn't happening! At least the kitchen floor is cleaner than it's been for quite some time!

Thanks for reading this far down the page! Talk again soon.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Keeping in touch

Our group SiX have invited a few friends to work towards an exhibition in 2012. There will be nine of us which will be great fun. Everyone knows one or more people in the group but no one except Laura and I really knows everyone (and even we don't know some of the artists very well)! In an attempt to 'bond' we've been chatting together by email but Laura thought it might be more friendly to start a group blog. No sooner the word than the deed as the saying goes so here it is sixandfriends It was only created yesterday so there's not a lot to see yet but if you are interested in how we all prepare for an exhibition you might like to follow our progress!

The exhibition has an oriental theme and the initial research is really fascinating - almost as much fun as it will be making the work. There are so many gorgeous images on the internet - I love this characterful bird! It's not a new passion - people may think I've only been been working with birds as inspiration for a few years but the Crested Crane below is a lithograph I made in 1969!! Can't imagine why I kept it for so long but it may come in useful now.

Although he does look a bit gormless don't you think?

The birds I do nowadays are more animated and curious I hope!

There is some sewing going on too. This is a detail of the Iris hanging I just finished for DMTV. Iris flowers have a symbolic meaning in Japanese culture so this quilt may make an appearance at the exhibitions!

Have a good weekend! Talk to you soon, Linda

Saturday, 19 November 2011

It's all happening!

I have got a lot of different things on the go right now. I like to have a choice so that I can work for a solid spell in my studio when I have enough time to work seriously or pick something up when I just need to fill a few minutes. If you're a DMTV member you'll probably recognise my appliqued Iris.

I'm pleased to say that the Iris panel is quilted now. I liked the effect of the techniques so much I've started a second quilt - this time using Tulips.

I know they look strangely disembodied right now but nothing a few stalks and leaves won't cure! Don't you love the marks in the hand dyed fabrics? I think I might follow the lines the dye has created when I come to quilting this one. The Iris sit in a pot I've stamped with Oriental symbols but the Tulips are going to have a lovely curvy vase. I bought the exact thing I needed as inspiration at the flea market this morning. I wonder if using it as inspiration for art makes it tax deductible?

Work goes on in the altered Moth book.

It's a little diversion I go to when I only have a few spare minutes. Stencilling is so quick and it doesn't take long to slap a bit of gesso on the page. The Moth book and its companion have embroidered covers now so progress is being made!

On a completely different note, the chillies refuse to accept it's November and continue to flourish. We'll be using them as Christmas decorations at this rate!

My thanks go to Linda and Lynder for their advice on dealing with the chilli mountain. As you can see I am trying!

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!  Linda

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Such excitement!

For more than two years Laura and I have been so busy writing new courses that it's been hard to make time for our own work. Sounds like a long time just to plan a couple of courses I know but the latest one, Creative Sketchbooks, involved 48 videos as well as step by step pictures and written information. It's not that I'm complaining though - writing the courses has been as stimulating for us as I hope it is for the students who sign up to take them!

We make all the examples to illustrate the modules and sometimes that takes us along a path we might not have trodden otherwise. I used a vase of paper tulips as inspiration for the pencil drawing with monoprint shown above. It's been a while since I've made monoprints but this reminds me how much I love the technique. I will be doing more!

You may remember I showed a photograph of a lovely carpet I bought at auction a while ago. I can justify buying almost anything if I use it as inspiration in my work! Here I've taken a motif from the carpet and used a similar print block to make a patterned page that frames another tulip drawing.

Some leftover prints were cut out and collaged around this pencil drawing with acrylic wash.

Now you may wonder why I have such a focus on sketchbooks at the moment. It's true I have neglected my quilting in order to finish the sketchbook course but there is another reason for all this drawing and painting - we are shortly to take delivery of a wide format digital printer. We'll be able to print on fabric up to 1.6 metres wide and any length we want. Can you believe how exciting that will be? The digital print quality will be able to capture every detail of a tonal drawing, every exciting nuance of a watercolour wash. I have painted my quilts for many years but paint acts differently onto an absorbent fabric surface than it does onto paper. Soon I'll be able to create exactly what I want in my sketchbook and see it printed out really big on cloth. I sense a whole new series of quilts coming on!!

The machine is being delivered in mid December and there will be a 3 day installation and training process. After that the sky's the limit - I think the Christmas holidays will be very creative this year!

Once we've mastered the technology we'll be producing a range of limited edition prints for sale and Laura will also be offering a print service to anyone who would like to see their own designs on fabric. Such exciting times!!

Bye for now - Linda

Saturday, 5 November 2011

More Saturday bargains

I was determined not to come home with anything other than essentials from the market today but I hadn't bargained for finding an easel at an irresistible price. I got this for an unbelievable £8!

I couldn't wait to try it out and started a new Rook panel straight away. I've only blocked in the main colours so far but plan to work on it more tomorrow once the first layer of acrylic paint is dry.

The easel wasn't the only unnecessary but tempting thing I acquired this week. I am a very keen cook but I've never made butter - finding these at the local auction house means if ever I do decide to try it I'll be prepared! In the meantime they'll look lovely hanging in the kitchen.

I got a few emails complaining about the picture of the scary spider I posted a little while ago. Seems some people don't like them as much as I do! My sister Maureen, she of Quilting Place fame, always has to outdo me. It's not that we're competitive you understand - she just knew I'd be fascinated by this snake skin she spotted while out walking near her house in southern France.

As if the sloughed skin wasn't scary enough she sent this picture a day or two later - this one is definitely livelier!

I guess it's not very big but I still wouldn't want to discover it slithering around in broad daylight!

Apparently, like Maureen the snakes are still enjoying the warm French sunshine. Back home we are distinctly autumnal but at least it keeps the vipers at bay! Mind you we did find a frog in the coal bucket tonight. It doesn't really compete but it's the best we can do in our quiet little English village!

Wild life permitting I plan to paint all day tomorrow - hope you have a great weekend too. Thanks for visiting - Linda