Monday, 24 December 2012

Making a start in New Zealand

Do you remember that this blog is called ‘burntofferings’? 
Well I am keeping up my reputation and have here is a picture of the latest offering:

Christmas cup cakes - well browned!

These Christmas cupcakes were baked in the oven of our rented house. In my defence the oven seems to have no temperature control, either on or off! So cooking and baking is an interesting affair at the moment, and for once, not all my fault.
I hope they still taste good, they certainly smell very festive, as they are our alternative Xmas cake this year. 

Mostly, December has been taken up with preparing to move from the UK to New Zealand. New Zealand, for good reasons, has very strict biosecurity rules which meant that every item which has been in contact with soil in the UK had to be thoroughly washed and disinfected, any organic matter had to be sealed or disposed of, therefore any furniture and ornaments which are wood had to be treated with sealant, the loft was sorted through again, another huge pile of give away/throw away items were sorted out and once the removal men had been, packed everything then taken it away on a container to start it’s long slow journey to New Zealand, the house had to be cleaned, nail holes filled etc. 

Just a few of the boxes, and this was only my workroom.

Sadly, because of the economic climate at the moment, the house is still for sale or rent, it would be a neater emotional position to be in if we had a buyer. But it will happen eventually, and the clearing out process has helped me to feel less attached to the property. When you spend a lot of time, energy, money and bring a family up in a home, saying goodbye to it can be a wrench, especially as we can’t start finding a new home to buy in NZ until the one in the UK has sold. 

2012 has also been a waiting game in terms of the future of the Beetroot Tree, the gallery I have developed and worked at since 1999. Moving to New Zealand meant that we needed to explore solutions to keep the gallery open, to continue to provide the home from home for our regular friends and a space for exhibiting and selling contemporary art and designer crafts. I would love everyone to either visit the gallery itself or the website, or the facebook page if you are too far away for a personal visit and welcome our new partner, Paul Storer. Paul has had the dream, as do so many people, of developing a creative space and gallery, for some time, and the time was right for him to jump on board and give the Beetroot Tree a sound and energetic footing for the future. You can see some of his photography on his site. Getting to know Paul and him agreeing to become a partner has allowed me to be very settled and happy knowing that I am leaving the gallery in very capable hands. I will be in constant touch with Paul and other members of the team so feel included in the continuous work of the gallery (Though I expect that it will be harder to buy so much artwork as I am used to doing). I will be writing for the Beetroot Tree Blog on a regular basis, so please sign up to that as well to hear news about our events and artists.
I have just had a very excited email from Hannah to say that a new delivery of Fair Trade textiles and clothes has been sent by Jo Hall of ‘Bazaar’. Jo’s collection was extremely popular in our recent exhibition and I am waiting eagerly to see what goes on line as I will have to reserve a selection to be sent to me in NZ as soon as possible.

Having arrived in NZ I have devoted the month to settling in, getting a drivers licence, a bank card, a tax code and everything else sorted and making preparations for Xmas.
We hope to have Xmas on the beach, though with the tail end of a tropical storm working it’s way across the island, we may not manage it. However the last 2 weeks have been the most fabulous weather and we have enjoyed that along with the honeysuckle,  jasmine and trachelospermum  which scent the air.
I am learning some new pronunciations and words. I am quite proud to be able to say ‘Aotearoa’ (the Maori name for New Zealand – and so much prettier than the European one!), and the name of the New Zealand Christmas tree, so called as it flowers profusely in the early summer, glorious bright red flowers looking like tinsel on the trees. They are the pohutukawa trees.

The bright red flowers of the Pohutukawa tree

There are many beautiful flowers and plants around me which I hope to study and be inspired by. I do feel particularly drawn to the large blue and white alliums which unfold from their 'pods'.

Allium emerging (1)

Allium emerging (2)

The only piece of equipment I have with me is the embellisher, so it was put to use with some scraps of fabrics to make cards and a small piece for a present. 

Embellished and stitched panel with metal and wire.
Embellished backing, stitch, woven metal and sea glass from the beach to make a small hanging.

Whilst sans equipment and materials I am determined to put this time towards drawing, sketching, making notes and gathering ideas in preparation for new works.
I also have the words to write for the book as the first draft with the photographs from the session at Search Press arrived in the post this week.
I have said it before, it is the chance meetings in life which can lead to some of the most exciting developments, and who is to know where this one will lead – yesterday we were at a get together with a family we have got to know and Brian, my husband, got talking to a man who it turns out is in the same line of work. Not too unexpected as the mutual friend is also in a similar area. However, it transpired that his wife, having been an opera singer, is now an art administrator for a gallery and also for an arts consultant who lives in the same bay as we do!! We will definitely be meeting up for coffee and a chat after the holidays!

I have added a few dates of workshops and talks which I have booked in New Zealand, have a look if you might wan to attend them. 
For now, I wish you a happy, creative holiday. Enjoy yourselves.

Monday, 22 October 2012

New directions for Angelina Fibres

Autumn Flowers

Autumn Flowers

Dew covered cobweb
It was a foggy, chilled October day this Sunday. Though I can forgive the weather when it allows such wonderful colours and beaded cobwebs for catching on the camera in a morning.

It has been a busy week running four workshops, each on different subjects and for three of which I forgot my camera.  I did remember it for a new day course which uses Angelina fusible fibres and encourages participants to fuse and then melt and burn the fibres with candles, heat guns and soldering irons. (Remembering, of course, all appropriate safety guidelines for using heat tools, naked flames and the possibility of fumes crated when burning synthetic fibres).
The ideas began a few years ago when I was asked to create a panel for the bedroom of a lady who felt her decor was cominated by furniture from 'a well known furniture and lifestyle' chain. She brought me samples of the colours and patterns in her room including the duvet and various accessories and asked me to make some thing which was 'the crown jewels gone mad'! Angelina fibres certainly can fit that bill so I used those in her colours:

Using hot fix angelina fibres to create art by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
'The Crown Jewels Gone Mad' for Debbie
Heat fusible angelina fibres art by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden
Detail from the Crown Jewels Gone Mad

I have touched on the techniques in this panel in other workshops, but felt that I wanted to go to town in pushing the properties of these fibres. So I spent time over the summer with the fibres and my burning tools but with access only to a embellisher and hand stitching. A small selection of the creations which developed are here:
This small piece used Sugar Plum and Calypso Blue fibres and as with many of the pieces was inspired by coral, anemones, jellyfish, sea squirts etc.  - a hark back to my marine biology days.

Sample from 'The Crown Jewels Gone Mad' Workshop

This could have been lichens, fungi, seaworms etc. but was really just having fun with textures and bright colours. I have used Lemon Sparkle, Watermelon and Raspberry fibres:

Sample from 'The Crown Jewels Gone Mad Workshop'

 More marine inspiration in Key Lime, Wisteria and Raspberry fibres:

Sample from 'The Crown Jewels Gone Mad' workshop
This next panel was created with studies of paua shell pieces very commonly used in New Zealand for jewellery and accessories of all kinds. I have soldered and embossed Ultraviolet fibres and stitched onto an embellished backing.

Detail from Angelina fibre panel inspired by Paua shell from New Zealand

Overall view of the Paua shell inspired Angelina fibre panel.

This final example perhaps doesn't fit the title 'The Crown Jewels Gone Mad', but shows that it is absolutely possible to create subtle, strong pieces with a fibre that can and often is used for high imapct and frivolous, fun creations. I have used Blaze fibres and a light chiffon scarf with lots of seeding stitches in off white and charcoal threads.

Lace inspired panel, prooving that 'The Crown Jewlels Gone Mad' can be subtle as well!

Detail from Lace inspired Angelina panel

Detail from Lace inspired Angelina fibre panel

The participants on the day were great, taking on board all of the ideas. Though in a day it would be too much to ask to complete a panel, everyone fused, burnt, melted and then arranged, discussing ideas for the piece they were working on and other developments which come to mind as you work (You know, next time I will use a different colour, use a different inspiration for design, or, at home I have just the right colour thread and beads to finish this...)

Getting it together later in the day after melting and burning, generally having fun!

Part of the panel started by Viv

Samples by Tracey
Lovely impressed and textured leaves (Sorry the colour is washed out in the image), by Margaret
Cath stitching her mini-paisley leaves in place ready for beading later.
Maggie really went to town - fantastic

A detail from Maggie's piece

I don't often get to see the finished products when workshops are just a single day, but from these images I can certainly imagine great results, and if I get sent any images later I will certainly share them with you.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Flattery will get you on this blog!

I am definitely of an age where I am susceptible to a bit of flattery, so this week I have been made to feel very happy! Having been told I couldn’t be more than in my 30’s on one day, I was asked last night if I was a university fresher - if only! 
The sweetest comments came from Martin, who says he is a printer trying to express his creative side and who asked to take my picture at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London last week. On sending the image and after my complaints about the increasing amount of wrinkles on show, he wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me yesterday and for graciously letting me take this picture of you.
Just so you know, you are now standing in one of the halls at Harwick looking at a Tapestry of the Old Amlwch Copper Mine (created by me photographically), all with an delicate over lay of your own workmanship.
I would be happy to hear what others think of your likeness but would be very surprised if they don't love it. Our face belongs to us, each little line, each contour tells a story that only gets deeper more interesting and more mysterious with time, how can you not love it. That little wisp of hair coming down your neck and onto your collar, how perfect is that.

What can you say to that?
And here it is ....

It is also flattering and gratifying to receive images of work inspired by my teaching. Gillian sent me these:

The design is based on machinery at Killhope Lead Mining Museum in the North Penines and has been made using Vilene painted with brusho dyes, then with the iron reactive metal paint and immediately spritzed with rust activator. The background is an original North country strippy quilt.
The piece is called 'Links' made for exhibition entitled ' HEAVY METAL ' shown at the Festival of Quilts  2012, then travelling to 4 venues in the North East during 2013.
Now I can add my own flattery to the many artists whose work was on display at the Knitting and Stitching show, and if you didn’t catch it there, you have 2 more chances, one in Dublin (1-4 Nov) and another in Harrogate (22-25 Nov).
Unfortunately the show was so busy I had very little time to enjoy the work on display. Usually I manage to get in early and have a lovely quiet walk around before I am back to my stand and another chance at the end of the day when most visitors have left, but not this year. It must be a sign of how popular the show is that I was meeting and chatting to visitors every minute of every day. Thanks to all of you who commented on the work I was showing and enjoyed the workshop.
There was an inevitability about my being drawn to one piece from the exhibition of embroidery curated by ‘Mr X Stitch’ Jamie Chalmers.

My friend Val Holmes launched her new book all about collagraphy techniques for textile artists ‘Collage, Stitch, Print’. I have not quite finished reading my copy yet, but already find it a comprehensive guide to what materials and techniques I can use, even without a printing press in many cases.
The four artists exhibiting ‘Material Space: In Touch’ is a great display, using many recycled, upcycled and ephemera in their work. Thoughtful and quirky.
I tried really hard to see the ‘Landmarks’ work by Jean Draper, whose work I admire very much, but having just had laser eye surgery, my detailed vision is still compromised and I couldn’t appreciate the delicate, dense textures and forms she has created – sorry Jean.
Other exhibitions at the show which I also really had no time to look at included the graduate showcase, the Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating exhibition launching their book ‘Hand Stitch Perspectives’, The 62 Group,( apart from being drawn to Louise Baldwin’s piece, probably as it is similar to one I bought from her at the Beetroot Tree), Cas Holmes (another textile artist who we have recently shown at the Beetroot Tree),  Anglia Textile Works, Jane Hall, Ann Small and just so many others, let alone the many individual artists on their stands such as mine. As I type, I am beginning to feel that I will have to make time to get to Harrogate for a catch up on that list!

Louise Baldwin

Detail from Louise's work

For now it is back to preparing for my ‘Easy Peasy Gilding’ workshop in two days.
Don’t forget that if you want to check out where I am teaching in the UK over the next few months, go to the ‘Out and About’ page and look for dates and places.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Exhibitions on opposite sides of the world

I am living 'bi-continentally' now, splitting my time between the UK and New Zealand, and this month visited great textile events in both places.

Driftwood on Mairangi Bay.

Tree fern ready to unroll.

Just before the last nip across the ocean to NZ I spent a very pleasant afternoon at Rufford Country Park to see the works of a Sheffield based group called 'Art Through Textiles'. This is a very well established, large (over 90 members) and long lived group which I have had the pleasure of visiting and knowing several of the members for some time. Many of the members are well known textile artists, all are enthusiastic and experimental. They were showing a collection called 'Elements'.
If I can get my critiques out of the way, they would be that there is never enough signage at Rufford to direct casual visitors to the gallery space meaning that only a very small proportion of the visitors to the Country Park ever get to the gallery area, despite this sales seemed to be going well and Rufford is always a good space with plenty of light and plenty of space. Also there was probably a little too much work on show, so that some works were squeezed in or not allowed their full potential and I wonder whether a more rigorous selection would have helped.
Having said that, group exhibitions with lots to see gives every visitor something to like or to talk about and I am sure that it would be judged a great success. Well done ATT.

A few people whose work I noted down at the time were:

Cass Rawlings - using organdie layers, I liked the delicate, decayed quality of the printed, layered fabrics with additions of simple catching stitching.
Jill Askey - highly textured pleats and fissures, pulled, twisted, burnt and embellished pieces.
Linda Bellinger - painting and printing on canvas with simple stitching in some areas, a painterly style using a fresh pallate, stitch seems to grow directly from the painting.
Diane Gilder - very dense, possibly computerised, machine stitch of 'water patterns'.
Sue Coles - 'tag book' structures, falling and twisting.
Jay Johnson - Landscapes of layers of shot silk and sheer fabrics with couching and handstitch.
Alison Folland - rough, wild vessels and sculptures made from scraps.
Jo Owen - life drawings on paper and fabric, restrained use of colour and stitch.
Lesley Alexander - a series of works of collaged fabrics, paint, embellishing andf limited stitching in quiet greys with highlights of blues mostly. The work was presented as one piece and as such was rather overwhelming. I would have been happier seeing each one as sufficient in itself, and indeed as we are now showing this series in 'Brocade and Beyond' at the Beetroot Tree, I have hung the pieces apart from each other.
Lynne Garbutt - stitched indigo tye dye, layered and pieces with vibrant, contrasting red used  as an emphasis. Suggestive of Japanese work.
Pam Rowley - the pieces were restrained and careful, a successful combination of texture and machine stitch set against firm hand stitch marks. I was not so keen on the framing though.
Last but not least, my friend Sandra Goddard - I loved her landscape combining photomontage and close up details. An evocative and personal memory of a dramatic Northumbrian coastline.

Sorry no images, I had hoped to get some from the ATT site, but they aren't in evidence just now. Keep an eye out for the groups future events on their site.

I then took a plane and from a not so brilliant summer in the UK, via 35 degrees C at 5am in Dubai, to spring sunshine and showers in New Zealand.
Gratuitous images of spring flowers coming up:

Amongst other actvities whilst there, I did squeeze a trip to Hamilton to the Craft and Quilt Show which for a relatively small show had a selection of interesting exhibits.
One of these was a selection of wearable art textiles made from reused and recycled materials, called 'restyle', I missed the actual show which was on the evening before my visit, but there were fun and novel examples of materials and clothing on show.
The fibre art section had a selection of felted and embellished garments. I thought that the use of fine vintage patterned silks worked especially well:

Kath O'Halloran and unknown artist

Shrug by Bryona McInally


And there was a really strong showing of quilts in various categories, a few of which caught my eye for differing and eclectic reasons:

Marylin Muirhead. Discharge techniques


Irene Anderton. Tweed and Plaid are unusual but successful materials for quilt

Merilyn George. A quilt remembering Chinese workers in New Zealand

Overall winner. Helen Godden


Merelyn Pearce. My husband's favorite as a reminder of his Aussie days