Monday, 31 January 2011

Images in a Landscape

The use of photo imagery in art quilts and stitched textiles is here to stay!!
Evening at Lake Mungo, NSW
We love our digital cameras and how easy it is to record information from the world around us – from personal photos of family and friends to favourite places or details and textures in the world around us.
The ‘Landscape’ as a composition is one that we all can identify with.  The horizon line, wherever it is placed, gives us a focus and settles our ‘eye’. This composition is usually used to reflect the nature, but life in the city and the urban skyline could also be considered. The ‘landscape’ of our thoughts, feelings and memories could conjure up other images.
      It is not enough to just use a photo of a favourite scene –a local view, our back garden, or images from recent holiday travels.  The really interesting information that the landscape collage could contain might include 
a) views at different times of the day or seasons, including close-up details and textures, 
b) historical reference, symbols, images of artefacts – stories from the past,  or 
c) our own personal diary writings, poems, experiences or memories from the place. 
These different aspects, especially your writing of the subject in a collage, will enlighten and engage the viewer even more.
      A recent workshop using digital imagery at Missenden Abbey has prompted me to share some student work and ideas that came out of the class.  I am so landscape inspired in my own work, and very focused on a specific theme, that I constantly find it exciting to see how others interpret their own personal journeys.
Student examples of long and thin collages in paper
In most of my workshops I ask students to collect information and photographs on a personal subject.  They  provide black and white as well as colour photocopies that will be used in collages.  These compositions take on a different emphasis depending on the workshop theme.  In this class, students worked with a variety of subjects – from ancient trees and forests, sea scapes and beaches to Chicago, with glass reflections of skyscrapers and modern architecture.  Creating collages in a long and thin format - horizontally or vertically makes them more dynamic. First we painted the black and white copies of their photos and the handwritten personal writings with Brusho a watercolour dye (for paper only). We incorporated the colour copies making interesting collages when torn and layered.
more Missenden Abbey work
     This is done relatively quickly – these simple torn or cut compositions are glued onto thin white copy paper.  Later they would be photographed or scanned into the computer, the image printed onto heat transfer ‘t-shirt’ paper, then ironed onto cotton. Extra fabric or paper could be added to the surface. It is backed with thin wadding (batting) and  fabric they are then machine stitched.  Alternatively the paper collage could be layered and machine stitched as a mixed media piece with other embellishment possibilities.
       I work with a collage of imagery in black and white, coloured and painted photocopies in the early stages of most of my own art quilts and textile pieces.  Sometimes this inspiration is in sketchbook form or they are created on large pieces of paper.  This way, it gives me a good idea of what the end result will look like.  
      There are still many choices to be made before the piece is finally finished......What size will it be and where will it hang?  Will fabrics be purchased, painted, dyed or photo  transferred? Will interesting art surfaces be needed - screen printing or stamp effects?  What stitch techniques will be used -  machine or by hand? Will extra embellishment- wools, metal needed?    This is only a beginning to a new creative and exciting stitched textile.

Materials for a landscape collage
  • Brusho paint – a watercolour dye (Colourcraft Ltd, Sheffield watercolour paints or procien dyes will all work for painting paper.
  • Black and white photo copies (preferably your own images) and colour copies for collage
  • Writing – personal memories, poems, research information – handwritten black and white copies.
  • glue stick and white copy paper   
See my wide and thin paper "Meltdown" collage in the ‘New Work’ section – which will be finished in fabric and stitch for an exhibition at the Festival of Quilts in August, 2011 with 'Studio 21'.  
Many other samples of collages that inspired new work can be found in my books.

Watch this space..... more workshop ideas and photos to come.               Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A New Year - 2011

Every January, despite the weather in the UK,  there is always a feeling of optimism for the new year ahead.  Looking forward to spring…. more sunshine and longer days….. buds on trees…… new leaf green, and the prospect of flowers and summer. And if you live ‘down under’, with the holidays finished, the glorious colour of autumn will begin soon.  It is a time to get inspired for all the creative challenges ahead of us in 2011.
I love the 4 seasons and in southern England, with low sun, long shadows, foggy mists, water reflections, and subtle green/browns in the landscape. There is so much beauty just around the corner - it never ceases to amaze me.  Yes, we have had our fair share of snow this winter, but last week it all melted, the sun was shining and I am looking forward to what January has in store.
Photos from Henley-on-Thames, New Year's day, 2011 
Playing with a new camera, I had great fun taking photos of grids and pattern for future design exercises. Wandering the streets in Henley, I saw them everywhere.  From shop windows, the pavement below, to gates and fences – grids and patterns were everywhere.  Laying a geometric pattern in front, or on top of any image, can give the information a completely abstract appearance. 

The background would change as I walked slowly from left to right by parallel iron bars or an ornate gate, showing different aspects of the background view.  Here, I have taken a section between the bars and enlarged it for detail.  To make the connection between design, composition and stitch, I would consider patterns with wire and threads…. holes burned in regular shapes from painted or dyed lutradur, woven networks made with stitch through soluble fabric surfaces. 
I have worked with repeat squares for many quilt art pieces in the past and found a satisfying symmetry to that regular style of composition.  Look at my gallery on for some of my 'square' art quilts.
For more ideas on stitch possibilities have a look at Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn’s book Grids to Stitch.
Another book worth recommending is Pattern, Colour and Form by Carolyn Genders - an inspirational connection between other art and craft disciplines (ceramics, and glass) and art textiles with stitch.

Resolutions for 2011???
They are all too familiar ……  keep up the sketchbooks……allow more time for my own work…find more time for playing the piano …work on a language (you would think being Canadian I would be fluent in French – sadly not!!!)…go on a diet!      
'LESS IS MORE'  -  simplifying, de-cluttering, focusing on new work and writing.

Wishing you all a healthy and productive 2011.  
My year will include travel and teaching in Australia and Canada.   I will keep you posted.                
Thanks for reading.